What Happens When Data is the Only Thing in the Driver’s Seat?

“Data driven”

“Data driven instruction”

“Instruction delivered based on assessment data”

The above buzzwords and buzz phrases are so commonplace for multiple reasons.  Some of those reasons are even practical.  I enjoy digging into student data, finding trends, discovering areas of strengths and difficulties, knowing what to hit again and what’s been mastered.  I enjoy having snapshots of how my students are performing.  I don’t, however, appreciate the weight and magnitude that some of these “snapshots” have on my students.

In third grade here in North Carolina, students are expected to show proficiency in reading before being promoted to the next grade level.  One way students can show this is through mCLASS data.  Please don’t misunderstand what you’re about to read– I am all for reading inventories.  I love running records and the data that they provide.  I see the value in oral reading fluency checks. I also appreciate and recognize the human element that is needed to analyze and interpret the data that is derived from these assessments.

You see, naked numbers, or colors in most mCLASS cases, aren’t enough to describe a student’s reading ability.  One of my biggest frustrations is when a student can read, comprehend, and answer any question about a story orally, but can’t for the life of them write to explain their answers.  Well, to be honest, their inability to do this isn’t what frustrates me, it’s the fact that when a student runs into this situation they are given easier texts to read (and sometimes go down multiple levels) and are labeled as “below grade level” in reading.  In many cases, this is inaccurate; students can in fact read on grade level, they just need to be taught better strategies for writing and answering comprehension question in the written form.  Instead, students often time receive reading intervention using texts and targeting skills that they’ve already mastered.

Many of these issues and mislabeling can be solved by teacher input.  Classroom observations and assessment data could be used to create a more well rounded reading level for students, but instead a computer program and universal screening books are used to form an opinion of students’ abilities.  This data, these opinions, rather, are then used (or are expected to be used) to group students and “drive instruction”.

Two of my colleagues, one a first grade teacher, and one a second grade teacher, share express the same frustrations with mCLASS data and expectations.  You can read their thoughts and hopes for their students here and here.

You can also enjoy this parody we created to express our concerns and the concerns we see our students face everyday set to the tune of Oops I Did It Again by the once great Britney Spears.

Are you frustrated with mCLASS data? What solutions do you find when faced with school, district, and state expectations?  Share your thoughts below!

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