Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Journal 2: School 2.0 Reflection Tool

This journal article meets NETS 4.
"I provide students with multiple and varied opportunities to demonstrate their learning, and I make data-based decisions to customize and adapt future learning opportunities aligned with content and technology standards."

Article Link

I investigated how teachers and schools use data-based assessments to meet their overall teaching goals and objectives (NETS-T #2). To summarize, this article discusses using a variety of assessments, analysis, and then coordinating to discuss results. The hope is that by streamlining a data-mining technique, teachers and schools can bridge the gap between where they want students to be, and where they currently are. The article then examines three schools that are examples of "success stories", where such data-driven assessments have been used to transform the schools and help their students achieve higher standards.

How can assessments help teachers to teach their students more effectively?
After the tests are administered, teachers must be instructed on how to analyze the results. These results are instrumental in identifying what standards have not been adequately taught, which students are struggling with specific skills (e.g. identifying a student with a learning disability, or helping a student catch up to her appropriate reading level). Teachers can meet to discuss results and plan how to revise their lesson plans and teaching strategies to help struggling students. It can also help teachers group students together based on proficiency (such as reading) levels.

What are the potential pitfalls?
There is a lot of time and effort involved to administer tests, analyze results, and then meet as a school to interpret results and decide how to act. For instance, Thompson Elementary School (Houston, Texas) has weekly faculty meetings just to review data and plan strategies to decide how to proceed. The data that results from school-wide assessments are not very helpful if teachers and administrators don't take the time to interpret them and decide how to adjust their curricula and teaching styles accordingly. In addition, for assessments to be useful, they must be administered several times a year, a time-consuming process. Many teachers and students are already overwhelmed by the number of standardized tests given throughout the year. Schools must be in agreement of how to use and analyze the data. Teachers and administrators may not be willing (or may not know how) to put the extra time in to use the results yielded from the tests.

Personally, data-driven assessments seem very useful in assessing how well the students are learning from the teacher. The school where I currently teach (Fusion Academy) uses MAP testing to individually assess each students' strengths and weaknesses. We have regular staff meetings to train teachers how to use the data from the tests to adapt our teaching style to each student's unique needs. It's been a time-consuming process but will ultimately be very useful in customizing our lesson plans to each students' ideal learning style. For instance, I've discovered some of my students in my science classes are below their grade level in reading proficiency. This explains why some may not do readings I assign for homework. I have since been able to adjust by giving them alternative texts or supplementary handouts, which both help them understand the concepts I'm trying to teach. In addition, I might focus on integrating reading comprehension and vocabulary skills in my science classes in order to help bridge the gap for my students.

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