I recently worked with several PLCs looking at how to take data they had regarding student learning and use it to decide, “What do we do now?” This is the truly critical step in functioning as a PLC. I have too often witnessed time being spent reviewing data from a common assessment only to have teachers leave the session and go back to their classrooms to start instructing the next standard no differently than if they had not done the reflection on the data.
The first step in moving to action from data study is goal setting.
I facilitated a PLC of secondary math teachers who came to the session with the results of a standardized assessment that their 9th and 10th grade students had completed. The data identified particular math concepts and percentages of students at each grade level who showed mastery of the concept.
The first question I posed to the group was, “Do you have faith in the data to reflect an accurate assessment of student learning/understanding of the concept?’” I want to move on to goal setting and it would make no sense to set goals from data the teachers did not trust. In this case, the teachers reported that their formative assessments of students in their classrooms aligned with these findings. (If it had not, I would have explored other assessments we might use.)
I next asked the team to identify a concept which they felt held the greatest sense of urgency to increase student mastery. They selected concepts that they felt students should have mastered in middle school and were critical to their future success in mathematics. We next set a goal to have 90% of the students to show mastery in these concepts by the end of May. (Current mastery was about 40%)
Our next step was to identify who the students were in each of the teachers’ sections who had not shown mastery. Now we had to identify student production behaviors. What did these students need to do and experience that would most likely produce our desired student learning? Then how could teachers create those opportunities, individually or collaboratively. In this case, more than one teacher was teaching freshman math the same period, so they could divide students who needed this extra instruction to meet with one teacher while the other did extension work. In another setting, teachers might design an online tutorial for these students or find an existing online program. Frequent, formative assessment would provide feedback on the effectiveness of the strategies that were being implemented.
A team of first grade teachers had identified students who had not made a year’s worth of growth during kindergarten as a focus group with a goal of making a year’s worth of growth, or more, this year. I had the teachers sort the students into three groups: students on grade level, somewhat below grade level and substantially below grade level.
We began with the students somewhat below grade level and identified that the critical next step for these students was to increase their sight vocabularies. What student production behavior would cause that to happen? The teachers decided that students needed repetitions working with sight words; repeating the words as they saw them, formed them, or wrote them. Next, we identified what teacher actions could cause those repetitions to happen:
Put a repetition into the start of guided reading groups
Work with parents to get two repetitions in at home each evening
Create a center where students worked with a partner who knew the words
Have students record the number of practices they did
Bring older students into the class to tutor practice repetitions
Find/create computer presentations of sight words
When the teachers analyzed the substantially below group, they decide that some of the students needed to work with decoding consonant/vowel/consonant forms and other were ready to work with consonant/vowel/consonant/silent e forms. They decide teacher strategies that would generate these student behaviors. (actions)
There was one student who was on grade level but hadn’t made major growth during kindergarten. The teachers decided this student needed to do more reading to develop fluency. They arrived at a teacher strategy of setting this student up to be a reader to kindergarten students whenever she had practiced a story enough to read it with fluency.
If you are providing facilitation to PLCs, plan to have them set goals for learning that advances students from the current status found in the work or data, identify the student production behaviors needed to create the learning outcomes and the teacher actions likely to generate those student behaviors.