It is late spring, there is light at the end of the school year tunnel, you are starting to feel a little less pressure and stress in your job, and your standardized test results appear in the mail! What always struck me as so interesting was the importance the tests seemed to take on at a district or parental level while also putting so much pressure/on the kids during the testing period. In reality these test results showed up ironically close to the end of the year with very little specificity to be used for individual improvement and differentiation. Where is the helpful light they should shed on student achievement and next steps? What can be done in mid-April to go back and fill in holes in learning with so little precious time left? Is it too late to use these test results for planning for the last month of school? With all of these questions circling, let’s take a look at some ways you can get more out of your testing data.Collaborating with Other Teachers and Schools
This technique seems to go underutilized in my experience because it is easy to worry that sharing your scores with others may draw criticism or invite judgement of your teaching. I have found that collaboration brings out some of the most worthwhile information the standardized tests have to offer. In my years of teaching, I felt educators are traditionally hard on themselves (me included!). Moving away from a mentality of fault or failure here and looking ahead to collaboration and growth is a positive step we can all take. One of my colleagues referenced a particularly helpful practice where he would
- Gather first with other teachers of his same grade level to look at data trends over the grade as a whole.
- Ask was there a specific subject area where there appeared to be consistent deficits?
- Explore this further-is it helpful then to compare with the curriculum you use to teach this content area?
- Take it one step further and meet with your school or district to flesh out standardized test trends.
- Where are you noticing areas of growth, strength and weakness as a larger school/district-wide body?
These are all great questions you can use to get more out of your test data to improve future outcomes and growth in your classroom, school and district.
Collecting and Examining Cohort Data
Cohort data is also particularly powerful and many of our schools use this to look at individual and group trends over time. While one year of standardized data received at the end of the year may not provide much insight into one of your students, multiples years may. See the image below:
*Here we can look at how a particular class has done in reading and math over a course of 2 school years, checking for longitudinal data growth.
When tracking cohort data, trends over time can start to appear lending powerful visualizations that give you the ability to learn valuable information about your students and their learning patterns, or specific classes and how they have tracked or not tracked in an area over time.
Example: If you were to look at a group of students over multiple years through cohort data you may find
- Longitudinal data growth in a specific subject area
- Lack of student growth or proficiency in a subject or subjects
- Continued above average scores in a specific subject area
While many standardized tests don’t give very specific information for remediation or enrichment you can take the more general subject areas and probe further with your students to make recommendations for the summer or notes to the teacher they will be with in the fall. For example, if “Key Ideas and Details” are marked as an area one of your students struggled, have them read a passage, at their reading level, and ask them questions at the end about the passage they read. Try to get a little bit more information about where they are struggling. Is it in synthesis of information, recall, etc? As we know from a previous blog, sending a student on to the next teacher with detailed information about their past learning experiences and current ability levels can help he/she better support them in the future with previous
- Attendance, behavior, or other similar data
- Standardized testing scores
- Logged notes regarding growth or exception in subject areas
To help you get more out of your standardized testing data, click below for a helpful guide to data centered team meetings.