What’s Data Got to Do With It?

Data.  We, as humans, are inundated with data on a daily basis.  We are constantly being bombarded with information.  And teachers even more so.  By definition, data is “facts or information used usually to calculate, analyze, or plan something” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).  But, it’s what we do with that data that matters.

Last week, I worked with teachers to analyze the data they collected around their SLO.  What does it mean?  How can we use it to move students forward?  How will it/should it change instruction?

Yet, working with our teachers made me stop and realize just how much data we collect, which led me to the idea of testing and how much testing we put on our students.  I know this isn’t new. We’ve had to test our students every year since the inception of No Child Left Behind.  But why?  How are we using the data?  Is it valuable data?  Are we using the data?  And if we are using the data, are we using it to help us “plan something”?

I stopped to think about the formal data collected from our students in a given year. Here is what I came up with:

September KRA (to determine kindergarten readiness)


October, December, March, May Guided Reading levels (K-5)


September, January, April/May MAP testing (in both reading (3-5) and math (K-5))


September, January, April/May m-Class testing (grades K-2)


December InView test for 2nd graders


January ELL students take the ACCESS test (K-5)


March PARCC PBA (3-5)


May PARCC EOY (3-5)


Personally, I’m more of a formative/qualitative data kind of girl. Always have been. That’s a lot of formal/quantitative data. When is it too much?  How is it used?  If we aren’t using it to plan for our students’ instruction or next steps in our SIP, then the data becomes just another number.  And that becomes collecting data just for the sake of collecting data.  Why would we do that?  There aren’t enough hours in the day as it is.

Kids aren’t RIT scores, reading levels, or PARCC scores.  They aren’t just another number.  But, data isn’t going away.  We need to think about the quality of the data we collect, the value of that data, and whether it is going to help us reflect on our teaching so that we can help students to be successful.

It’s how we use that data that matters.