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Friday, November 8, 2013

Getting started with Data Walls

A couple of weeks ago, I was ranting about the stupidity of data walls. I had read an article that I disagreed with. I posted it on Edmodo and Facebook for discussion, and there were definitely varying perspectives. I read. I processed. I did not change my opinion. 

One, I hate numbers. Hate with a capital, italicized, bolded, and underlined H. I look at numbers and feel like I am looking at a foreign language. Despite this, I am really good at looking at and analyzing data. I have even been asked to conduct a professional development session on our database. 

Two, what is the point? Putting a bunch of numbers up on the wall is not going to change my student population or class sizes. I am still going to have students who have special needs and those who do not do their homework. 

Three, I think they are stupid. So there!

Tuesday, we had a staff meeting, and because life likes to play games, DATA WALLS was listed on the agenda. I swear my brain groaned. Not my throat. My brain. All teachers are now required to have classroom data walls and binders full of data and brains full of data and data and data. And guess what. Two weeks to get everything ready. 

I am easily aggravated, but that does not tend to last long. I am quick to step back and look at any change in a positive light and get to work on whatever is expected of me. Therefore, I am making my attempt to create an ever-changing data wall. 

Yesterday, we took our quiz of "The Tell-Tale Heart." As each class was scored and entered into the gradebook, I posted the class average for the quiz. Third period wanted to do better than second. Fourth wanted to do better than third and fourth. Sixth didn't care. And seventh, my Pre-AP class, simply expected to do the best. When second period came in today, they were pretty upset. 

All right, so why did third period do significantly better? I can do this. I can analyze. 

Well, third period is my smallest class at 15. They are a very engaged group, and we have a great time every day. Are they doing the best because they are the smallest? Are they doing the best because of the rapport? Is it a combination? I am not quite sure on this, but I am determined to figure it out. 

Today, we are completing our Istation testing. Istation is a computerized reading program that measures lexile levels. We use this to help monitor student progress throughout the year. The first time they took the test, they did not take it seriously (and it was a Monday morning). I raised the stakes this time.

Throughout the day, I have been keeping track of the September averages compared with today's averages. Despite third periods exceptional work yesterday, they actually decreased significantly. I did have some students tell me afterward that they were not focused and/or concerned. Now I have to try again with them and see what happens. Grrrr

While the kids have been working today, I have also been finishing up grading for report cards (yes, I really can multitask this well; the joys of ADHD). I have been looking at the passing rate for each class for the first and second marking periods. Their focus for this set has to be solely on their own class periods because the different class sizes keep the percentages from matching up to one another. 

Sadly, I had to add 82% to my last box with five students failing. Pre-AP has been completely off their game, and I have been all over them for the past few weeks. I knew it. They knew it. But they haven't seen it. As soon as I walked over the the board and wrote it down, there was a lot of turning around and whispering. Maybe there is more impact here than I realize. 

So those of you who use and/or understand data walls, what are your thoughts about my start? When I don't know something, I ask, and I am really asking. 


  1. We do not use data walls, although for some students I can see them as being useful, a bit of motivation they need to kick them back into focus. What I'm more interested in is why do you think three classes scored lower? We use STAR reading to measure reading growth, and I just ran into the same problem with decreased reading levels. While I'm not a HUGE fan of numbers either, I wonder if I showed them their first class average matched their second, what would happen. I was so upset by the decrease in reading level (by some students it dropped grade levels) that I didn't even pass out the updated information.

  2. I think some group dynamics are at play in one of the classes. Another is heavily weighted with intermediate ESL students. I'm going to be paying more attention this week and doing more checks for understanding.