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Collecting and Using Data to Inform Your Teaching

Collecting and Using Data to Inform Your Teaching

Many years ago, I was sitting in the Columbus, Ohio, airport after presenting at the National Reading Recovery conference. I eavesdropped on a conversation across the aisle, and that’s how I met Maryann McBride, a Reading Recovery Teacher Leader from Virginia. She was showing Excel data about Reading Recovery students to a group of teachers sitting next to her. From that first encounter, I discovered that Maryann is an amazing storyteller. She can even make a spreadsheet sound exciting, and this particular one made a profound impression on me. Maryann was collecting weekly data on Reading Recovery students’ text level and writing vocabulary from all the teachers she supported in her huge district. Maryann had started to use that data to pinpoint students who might not accelerate, even though they’d been in their intervention program just a few weeks. The data helped her make decisions about when more support was needed. I thought this might work for my site. My geographically diverse western Massachusetts region ranged from a small disadvantaged urban district to tiny hill-town schools in the Berkshire mountains. I used Maryann’s techniques to help my team drastically improve our ability to support teachers.

The important thing about data is that we use it to help us make informed decisions. Too often data is used just to judge success or failure. Many teachers have shared their experiences with me over the years, and I’m excited to pass their data-driven methods on to you.

Let’s start with one from Amy Ferris, who collected data and used it to improve individual student reading and writing opportunities. Amy is a literacy interventionist in a kindergarten-only school in Richmond, Kentucky. A large number of their students come to school with meager letter knowledge. This past summer, Amy attended Jan Richardson’s and my Literacy Footprints Institute. Amy’s school also began using the Literacy Footprints guided reading system that Jan and I developed. In the video below, Amy shares the data that she and her colleagues began to collect this fall and the results they are getting using Literacy Footprints strategies. I love the outside-the-box thinking that Amy and her team are using and I think you will too!

If you’d like to see the letter tracing technique that Amy talks about, check out Jan Richardson’s demonstration of it on in the ABC Book video on literacyfootprints.com. You can also find the student-sized ABC book used in the video on pioneervalleybooks.com.

A second data story comes from Julie Allsworth. Julie is a former literacy coach in Pinellas County, Florida, and also a Pioneer Valley Books consultant. She is currently working on her doctorate and regularly consults with school districts nationwide. Here, Julie shares her findings in her own words:
 

Julie Allsworth

“In my work with districts and schools in various states, I have found that the most successful students receive guided reading on a daily basis, and their teachers methodically utilize Literacy Footprints lessons. Students are instructed in reading strategies and behaviors, the appropriate level of word study, sight words tracked on the high-frequency chart, and scaffolded guided writing.

In addition, it is very important that students who read below grade level receive two daily doses of Tier 2 instruction; that is the only way to close their learning gaps. In addition to any other intervention the student receives, the classroom teacher also needs to provide daily guided reading for the struggling reader. Two doses of Literacy Footprints per day will do the trick and close struggling readers’ learning gaps.

Data from the schools I have worked with shows the effectiveness of the Literacy Footprints program. In one rural Tennessee school, 75% of students came into kindergarten labeled 'at-risk'; those students received two Beginner Steps lessons per day and completed the alphabet tracing routine daily. After one year of guided reading instruction, ALL of those 'at-risk' kindergartners entered first grade reading on grade level. At a Wisconsin school I advised, struggling readers received guided reading twice a day. After one year of using Literacy Footprints, the school reduced special education referral rates in kindergarten through second grade from 7–8% to just 1.37%.

My data also directed me to solutions for students who cannot be seen by an interventionist, Reading Recovery teacher, or a Title teacher for a second daily dose of reading instruction. In those cases, teachers should utilize the 10-minute one-on-one lesson plan. Data from that same Wisconsin school showed that many students eligible for Reading Recovery services who received the 10-minute lesson in place of Reading Recovery (due to limited resources) were able to reach grade-level reading proficiency by the end of first grade. These students received a second dose of guided reading daily from classroom teachers who utilized the 10-minute plan in a one-on-one lesson. Lo and behold, their learning gaps had closed at the end of first grade! Following Literacy Footprints and giving students two daily doses of guided reading lessons can undoubtedly help students to reach grade-level proficiency in reading and close their learning gaps!”

I hope these stories inspire you and your team to look at your data and think about what you can learn from it. What changes might you make to improve your students’ access to and knowledge of literacy?