Data Teachers Really Want – Hint: It Doesn’t Come In a Dashboard

I have been thinking a lot about data lately. Especially the difference in the data teachers want and actually use vs. the data districts seems to make their curriculum decisions around. I saw first hand how a district could be “wowed” by fancy data dashboards with a multitude of reports, settings, and options but I also never saw my district make great use of these reports. The question keeps coming to my mind – why do we adopt less than stellar curriculum at an excessive cost just for the bells and whistles that come on these data dashboards?

I know the data that I used frequently as a teacher to inform instruction and none of it came from a dashboard (with the exception of the Desmos Teacher Dashboard which is free and formative so totally different ball game!) However, since I am not currently in the classroom I don’t want to speak for teachers without asking what they are doing first so I took to Twitter to ask them.

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They had some awesome ideas about what they used in their classrooms to monitor student learning and achievement but none of them came in the form of a flashy data dashboard like I’ve seen some school district make curriculum decisions based on.

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So my sincere question is this – should school districts be making decisions influenced by the inclusion of data dashboards if it isn’t the data teachers really need and use?

As a parent it also concerns me that my daughter, who is a struggling reader,  uses a reading program that only partially meets expectations on Edreports but comes with fancy assessments and dashboards so was chosen my our district. I would gladly trade her having the opportunity to learn from a highly rated, aligned, and coherent curriculum that is based on science than her district have even more data to show that she is behind in reading. Perhaps with a stronger curriculum she wouldn’t be behind in the first place.

I’d love to hear others thoughts on this topic! I am still working through the disconnect between what teachers actually use and what school districts want in regards to data in my own mind as both a parent and a teacher so opinions welcome!

 

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Good Curriculum Matters: Here’s Your Proof

In October of last year I started having nightmares about our state assessment scores coming out. I had pushed (and hard) for my school to pilot Open Up Resources 6–8 Math and it was a huge transition for our teachers. I think October was when it hit me that if it was a flop that I had put my school, colleagues, and students in a terrible position.

I knew in my soul that it was the best way to teach math but you know there is this “little” thing called accountability testing that meant regardless of what I thought that if the kids didn’t perform well on state testing that I had bought myself a lot of trouble. October was about the time of year that we were worried about pacing, the transition to a program that was so conceptual, and the million other things that comes with adopting a new curriculum hence the nightmares I started having.

There were bright parts along the way that I blogged about. We really saw the beautiful part of teaching students conceptually and had some amazing student outcomes on our MAP testing but I knew none of that mattered if my kids didn’t perform on our state test.

I got word in September that our results were strong but since I was no longer employed in the Fayette County School District it was so hard to get detailed results. Finally this morning our state department of education went live publicly with 2017-2018 detailed accountability data so I immediately dove in to see just how impactful the curriculum was.

I did a lot of analysis this morning and I am so excited to share it with you. A few quick notes. This is our 7th grade data only. Our 6th grade math also had strong results but since I was a 7th grade teacher I felt I could speak most accurately to the teaching and learning in 7th grade so I chose to focus on those results. There were also some long term teacher absences in 6th grade that I felt may have skewed the data somewhat and I wanted to present the best data I could for those interested.

This data is a comparison of 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. In that time our 7th grade teaching team remained the same so there was no difference in teachers. The demographic in our school also did not change significantly in that time. Although our state accountability system is undergoing some changes the test and measures of Novice and Proficiency did not. All of this data is based on 326 7th grade students who were tested. If you have other questions drop them in the comments I am glad to answer them.

Here we go…

 

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All Learners –  the percentage who were Proficient/Distinguished increased by 15% while the percentage who were Novice decreased by 39%.

Economically Disadvantaged Students – Proficient/Distinguished increased by 34%, Novice decreased by 35%

Students with Disabilities – Proficient/Distinguished increased by 8%, Novice decreased by 46% (did you read that…wow!)

English Language Learners – Proficient/Distinguished increased by 100%, Novice decreased by 20% (this is probably what I am most proud of…we doubled the amount of English Language Learners that were Proficient of Distinguished on the state assessment!)

African American Students – Proficient/Distinguished increased by 50%, Novice decreased by 42%

Non-Duplicated GAP – Proficient/Distinguished increased by 26%, Novice decreased by 32%.

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So there you go, year one of  Open Up Resources 6–8 Math. I am still in a little bit of awe at how much the GAP actually closed. I can’t help but think if we made this process in year one what schools in year two and onward will be able to do for students.

Kids, all kids, deserve a chance to be successful in math. Two years ago if you were a student with disability in our school there was a 60% chance you were Novice on the state test. Last year there was only a 30% chance and that was with only 1 year of strong curriculum. It gives me chills to think about what can happen to a student over the course of 3 years with a strong math curriculum like this one.

Good curriculum matters. Here’s your proof.

Sources:

2017-2018 School Report Card

2016-2017 School Report Card

 

Answers to Your Questions 1/24/19

There were some great questions asked about this data that I wanted to address! A teacher on Facebook asked a great question wanting me to compare last year’s 7th graders with their 16-17 6th grade scores rather than the previous class of 7th graders. I did that and WOW.

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Check that out… a 322% increase in our ELL students Proficiency from 6th Grade to 7th!

Dan Meyer also asked some great questions that I wanted to address:

Hi Brooke – these are really fantastic results, particularly if y’all think the K-PREP is a good exam. Thanks for sharing. Can you elaborate a bit on the factors you think led to those results? I’m sure good curriculum is a part of that. Were there other parts? What was the teacher PD like? What kinds of communities of practice would we find in FCPS? Did you folks do a lot of hiring in seventh grade math last year and if so what kinds of teachers were you looking for? Basically whatever you’d be willing to share in whatever time you have would be a big service to the math ed community.

 

My response:

Those are GREAT questions that I am happy to answer and will also go back in and add some of that information as an addendum so others can find it easily.

I do not honestly find that K-PREP is a good exam but it is what we have and it did provide a good comparison for me to use. Previous to 2017-18 our results were pretty consistent. We did not experience any large jumps or drops in scores like we saw here. I have written other posts on different assessments including NWEA’s MAP assessment where we also saw huge growth for all learners – especially those in the GAP and also our district written assessments so thee results really have been confirmed in a variety of ways.

I wish so much that we had strong PD around the curriculum. I can’t imagine how much growth we could have seen had we been able to take advantage of that. But we were really on our own in the District. We were the only school using Open Up Resources 6–8 Math and they helped us purchased the books but then we were on our own. I provided a PD to the teachers before school started to introduce them to the materials and any routines they were not used to but that was all we did in that regard. We had monthly Department meetings and weekly PLC meetings however where teachers could brainstorm and problem solve.

I will say one advantage we had was that I had long been an active MTBoS follower so I was very familiar will the instructional routines and structures such as Which One Doesn’t Belong and Notice and Wonder. Over time, I had introduced many of those to our Department in meetings and summer PD so they weren’t starting from scratch which I imagine would have made it much more challenging.

FCPS does have a wide variety of teacher PD days where teachers are “released” from the classroom for a day for professional learning. They range on a variety of topics and our teachers did participate in those but their participation was no different than it had been in years before. Things in FCPS remained the same as they had been in prior years.

We also did not hire any new seventh grade math teachers. The seventh grade team had worked together for the last 4 or 5 years with no changes at all. We did bring on a new collaborating math teacher in our co-taught classes. She was not new to our school building but was new to our PLC.

Our student population did not experience any large changes in this time either.

Another teacher asked what I thought was a very valid question. She wanted me to compare same students to same students. So instead of 16-17 7th graders to 17-18 7th graders she wanted to see the 17-18th graders comparison to their 6th grade scores from the previous year. I crunched those numbers and the results were crazy. I will add in that chart but our ELL students experienced a 322% growth as they moved from 6th to 7th grade. Of course maybe this can be attributed partly to them having an extra year of language experience but I was so excited for them regardless. They are closing their GAP and that is what matters to me.

Overall, I think the biggest impact was the fact that we went from no curriculum to a top notch curriculum in one year’s time. Although we had the best of intentions and worked ourselves hard to plan engaging and coherent lessons the truth is we obviously fell short especially when it came to coherence. I had long been a supporter of teaching math coherently and thought I was doing it…until I started using Open Up Math and then I quickly discovered that that kind of planning and forethought was something I just couldn’t easily achieve while also teaching full time and all of the responsibilities that come with that. In short it is pretty near impossible to be a full-time teacher and a full-time curriculum writer which is what I had been trying to do for 12 years. For the first time I could really focus on my teaching and the kids learning. That’s a simple though but had a monumental impact. I could refine my craft as a teacher instead of resource mining and piecing together part of other curricula to put something together that I thought served my kids.

From my students standpoint I think the greatest contributor to their success was math through this curriculum became something they enjoyed more because they had more autonomy in their problem solving methods and strategies. I was never a “hey you have to do this my way” teacher but I will admit a shameful teacher truth – when push came to shove and we had been on a topic way too long and my GAP students were still struggling I would try and make things easier for them by breaking things down, showing them steps, and giving them ridiculous things to remember. I am not proud but I was desperate sometimes.

The cyclical nature of Open Up Resources 6–8 Math meant that when we had spent a lot of time on a subject and we weren’t quite to mastery that I knew that the topic was going to continue to be woven in the next lesson and unit so that my students could continue to grapple with the math until they achieved mastery in their own time. I had so many struggling students for the first time tell me that the really “enjoyed math class” and I attribute that to the fact that it was no longer a race to mastery but was instead a time to brain storm, problem solve, work together, and think.

I saw that often when it was time to take a high stakes assessment. The kids who would previously “do math” by taking all the numbers out of a problem and add, subtract, multiply, and divide until they got something close to one of the answer choices and then decided that must be it were instead making xy tables, drawing number lines, using tape diagrams, and really reasoning. That was a win for me as a teacher. Half the battle of teaching math is convincing the kids that they can do it, this curriculum really did help me do that.

Sorry this was a novel. Hope this helps. Shout with other questions!

If 2nd Graders Bowled Like Legislators Passed Laws

I had the chance to go on my 2nd grade daughter, Embry’s field trip to the bowling alley today. I won’t lie, I had my concerns. Bowling isn’t easy – especially when the balls weigh 25% of your total body weight like Embry but I had the best time watching the kids interact.

I thought there would be upset kids and hurt feelings over gutter balls, low scores and the kids that were way better bowlers than others. Instead I heard a lot of this:

  • You knocked down two pins that is so good!
  • Here I’ll push the ball with you.
  • Let me hand you the ball when it come out.
  • Ms. Powers did you see ______ knock all the pins down? That was so cool!

In fact in the time we were there I didn’t see any hurt feelings or being upset over how bowling was going. They were more concerned about their group as a whole than their individual performance.

Seeing this came at a really good time for me after watching the performance of our government in our special session over the last two days. I started thinking on my way home, what if these 2nd graders bowled like our legislators?

Governor 2nd Grader: I know we are going on a bowling field trip we’ve already paid for in 3 weeks but I am paying lots of extra money so we can go today.

Teacher 2nd Grader: Well we think that’s ridiculous but we will be there to make sure that you don’t cheat.

Governor 2nd Grader: No need to be there I will bowl for you all. You aren’t good enough to bowl. You’ll get more pins this way.

Teacher 2nd Grader: We’ve just seen you all cheat a lot and we’d like to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

House Leader 2nd Grader: Before I roll this ball I am going to give a 10 minute speech about what is wrong with all of you teacher 2nd graders. We’ve cheated at bowling for 55 years and no one has cared. Now that we’ve been caught you all are all worked up about it. I’m here to tell you that we cheated today the same way we cheated last time and the same way we will cheat again next time.

Majority Party 2nd Graders: Yes most of us were here when all the cheating you teachers started to begin with and yes we went along with it but that’s before anyone knew what was going on. Stop asking us hard questions or we will quit. Isn’t there a private room we can bowl in? When is recess?

Minority Party 2nd Graders: They won’t even let us play the game anymore.

Majority Party 2nd Graders: I am not sure we will win the game so we are going to quit. We will come up with a game that those teacher 2nd graders definitely can’t win before we come back here again.

Welcome to the picture of maturity in Kentucky folks! All that was in good fun but not true far from the truth about what is going on here. I highly recommend wherever you are located that you start watching the coverage from your state legislature. You will be shocked at the shenanigans that go on each and every day.

Stay informed and stay active. I vowed to be a voice at the state level for the kids who don’t have one and I don’t take that promise lightly.

My Mama Says Nothing Good Happens After 10pm…Why Didn’t Anyone Teach the KY House Leaders That?

I had a lot of time to think last night – mainly because I was afraid to go to sleep. In Kentucky our legislators seem determined to only do business behind closed doors and in the dark of night so I am forced to stay awake odd hours, check the Legislative Research Council Website, and social media to stay informed about what is happening in Frankfort.

My mom always told us as kids that nothing good happens after 10pm. I wish my legislators followed that advice.

I was also worried for my kids all night. It was unclear most of the night whether there would be teachers to teach them today. Embry was excited to make gingerbread houses with her beloved 2nd Grade Teacher and Jackson is wrapping up his Colonial Times unit by participating in “Barter Day” where he carefully selected 5 items from home to try and trade with his classmates for other goods like in Colonial Times. It would have broken their hearts to miss school today, as it will if school is cancelled tomorrow and the have to skip their end of the semester bowling trip or “Colonial Day” filled with colonial crafts and activities.

However, as a former teacher I will gladly take on explaining to them why there is no school tomorrow if it comes to that. There was a a different air in the car circle this morning when the kids got out of the car that truly gutted me a bit. I saw, for the first time, a look of defeat on the teacher’s faces. They are tired too. My guess is they also were afraid to go to sleep last night. My guess is they were worried sick about how upset their students would be if they had to miss all the end of semester fun. I bet they worried about who would explain why there was no school to the kids who don’t have a loving home environment.

I think in many ways teachers are too tired to even be upset about what is in the crazy pension bill at this point. But I do think they are upset and worried for their students.
I think they are worried about how you teach kids to be good losers when our Governor just showed that when you lose instead of accepting it you throw a fit until you get your way.

I think they are worried about teaching kids to follow the rules when our legislators last night voted to “suspend the rules” so they wouldn’t have to follow any in regards to passing this bill in special session.

I think they are worried about teaching kids about democracy and using your voice when I myself have emailed my legislators respectful and solution focused letters nearly daily since the first of November and have yet to get a response.

I think they are worried about teaching kids about the legislative process when only one party has been allowed to see a bill that will effect so many people.

I think they are worried that the public will buy into the rhetoric and drama and not see what is going on behind closed doors.

I think they are worried that all the good they do each and every day will be forgotten and their legacy will be this one moment in time.

I see you worried teacher and this parent supports you.

Nothing good happens after 10pm. Or behind closed doors. Or in secret. Or in expensive special sessions. Remember that Kentucky.

 

Not Alone – How A Math Curriculum Helped Me Finally Belong

I think most of have a driving need to feel like we are a part of something, to have people that understand us, to feel like we belong.

In short we don’t want to be alone.

If you know me you know I don’t do anything just a little bit…so I even take the fear of being alone to a whole new level. I’ve spent most of my life hating to be alone whether it was driving in the car, sleeping at night, or watching tv I’ve had an endless need to have people around. (Now that I have kids I seem to enjoy that whole being alone thing a bit more haha!)  I even remember having a moment of total meltdown after I got divorced while watching the movie “The Intern” and realizing that I might be buried in the cemetery alone one day. (Don’t watch that movie after you get divorced FYI) So as I write this, yes I do realize that I take crazy to new and unprecedented levels every day.

But I think if most of us are honest I think we all hate to be feel alone in this world. I really started reflecting on that this week after I saw this tweet.

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It knocked my socks off a bit. I felt alone a lot as a teacher. I was always the rebel, the one who was never satisfied, the one who thought we could push just a bit harder to improve ourselves, the one who questioned the status quo. That doesn’t always earn you a lot of friends in a school building.

Don’t get me wrong, I had some amazing friends when I was teaching that I loved dearly but I also knew I never quite belonged. I knew that when new ideas popped up that were extra work I would take the blame or when I spoke up to share in a meeting that the same people would roll their eyes or otherwise not be thrilled with my rebel rousing ways. I never got to be truly whole there because I never really belonged.

But this isn’t a sad woe is me blog post. It’s a coming of age if you will because now I get to see just how awesome it is when teachers have a safe space and really get to belong. I get this awesome experience of watching teachers from across the country gather around the Open Up Resources 6–8 Math Curriculum and find their belonging. I see teachers sharing everything from teaching tips to posters they made to help strangers they’ve never met, offering words of encouragement, and investing in each other around a curriculum of all things – and it is magical.

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It makes me proud to get to be a part of this group of educators who are more amazing than I can describe. I know they are doing incredible things for kids in the classroom and as a parent I am thankful for that but I am more thankful for what they are doing for each other. They are giving each other a place to belong. They are filling our great human need to not be alone and giving each other a greater purpose. How cool is it that it’s happening around a math curriculum?

 

Kids Deserve Better

 

It takessuperpowers...
Last year we implemented something called “WIN” Time on my 7th Grade team at school. “WIN” stood for “What I Need” and it was big success. It started out with me identifying math concepts that students needed extra help with and providing them with extra time, help, and lessons on those. However, it soon developed into students telling me when they knew they needed WIN time because they weren’t getting something.

 

Do you know what is crazy? When students were able to identify their own needs and then get them met they were more invested and successful in the classroom. I saw a large increase in proficiency in my classroom last year based on my state’s accountability measures and a decrease in our GAP partially because of this WIN time.
I can’t help but wonder if this applies to teachers and education as well. The political climate in Kentucky right now is not pleasant and education seems to be taking the brunt of the cuts, arguments, and political spin. However it never seems to occur to those that are constantly pointing out what is “wrong” with education in the state of Kentucky and who are constantly running their campaigns on how they are going to fix the problems to ask teachers what they really need to be successful.

I think those who represent us and make policy decisions may be surprised at how communication, trust, and even results could improve if you began to include teachers in the discussion and ask them what they need to “WIN” rather than just making sweeping reform that seems to do everything in the end except improve education.

I taught kids in 7th grade math last year that came in ranging from 1st grade to 8th grade math levels. At the end of the year all learners experienced nearly two years worth of growth, ELL students experienced 2 1/3 years, and SWD experienced 2 1/2 years of growth. That is how we begin to close achievement gaps. My students with disabilities and english language learners made great gains last year on our state math performance assessment and yet no one is asking me how or seems to want to learn from what I or other teachers across the state do to close achievement gaps each and every day.

Last week I reached out to my Representatives and State Commissioner of Education politely and professionally and asked to meet with them to share ideas and work together for kids in the state of Kentucky. Of all the emails I sent, I received zero responses. I think our kids deserve better than that.
I love the kids of Kentucky and sincerely wanted begin a dialogue about how we can begin working together to improve education here.  The kids in Kentucky deserve teachers and legislators working together to decide their future. They deserve to be asked what they need. They deserve answered emails, strong legislation, and funded classrooms. They deserve to WIN.

You Can’t Extinguish Goodness

I love fall so very much but its arrival has been slow to Kentucky. As a result of our 85+ degree days I have forced fall into my home with as many fake leaves, pumpkin decorations, and fall scented candles as I can find. (Plus it has rained for approximately 1 trillion days here so my dogs perpetually smell bad anymore, ick!)

Last night I was blowing out the last of the candles and the flame was at that almost magical point where it looks like it is out but then all of a sudden gets going again before returning to full fire form. The house quiet, a rarity around here, and I thought for a moment about this Nelson Mandela quote that I have always loved so much.

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Maybe this whole goodness thing was on my mind because my town literally was torn apart by a pizza review this week. I realize that probably sounds dramatic but no joke google Barstool review Lexington pizza place and see what comes up and then read all the great comments!

Our local pizza joint had to shut down its phones and social media as well as yelp reviews because they went from over a 4 star rating to a 1 in a matter of hours and people were calling to curse and yell at them non stop. Its not like these were customers it was just strangers that thought it was fun…no joke.

It isn’t like this kind of stuff is uncommon, it happens everyday. People are so quick to get mad and angry, pass judgements, and then spread the word about how terrible you are. Yet at the same time people are slow to have rational discussions, see both sides or try to see the good in people, companies, or organizations.

I won’t lie, sometimes it is hard to see the good anywhere.

And then, I walk into my garage and see books and school supplies and remember all of the beautiful goodness in the world around me. Sometimes that flame of goodness is hidden and sometimes it is almost out but it always makes a comeback. We have been overwhelmed by friends, acquaintances and strangers who have sent books and supplies from across the country to help us achieve our goal of giving every one of these kids a book they can call their own.

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I have gotten to talk to people like Deborah Schaumberg the author of The Tombs one of the books on our list. Deborah not only donated books to our cause but reached out to her own friends and family to ask them to help and make sure that every single child that wanted to read The Tombs could. Today, the last copy of The Tombs was ordered thanks to her help, a complete stranger, who just wanted to get books in kids hands.

We still have a lot of other books left to go but this project has been magical in so many ways.

It isn’t just the book project that has me see all of this goodness, my Open Up Resources 6–8 Math groups are the best. I really can’t tell you how many times at the end of a long day I jump in the Facebook group or on #openupmath to see all the amazing pictures and stories teachers are sharing. They are soul-filling kinds of stories full of the amazing abilities of teachers and the progress we are making in math education. It is the best.

And there are the amazing people I get to work with who I can call ridiculously early West Coast time because I am unsure of something or panicked that I messed something up that will take the time to understand what I need and help me own and fix my mistakes. I didn’t really think there could be people as passionate (or as crazy) as I am about equity in education but my co-workers really are. But beyond that so many of them have helped support us in our book project not just by buying books, but with kind words and sharing our story. My life is filled with good people.  (And seriously everyone there rocks but Karen, Patrick, Gail, and Lincoln, save me, make me laugh, and remind me how amazing humans can be everyday).

I get awfully wrapped up sometimes in all the darkness that sometimes hides all the goodness around me but it is there just like that candle I tried to blow out last night. Thankfully kindness is magical like a flame, just when you think it is gone and just when you need it most it finds a way to bounce right back.