Yesterday, I spent the day observing a fellow tech coach train teachers on a testing system. This system allows teachers to gather large amounts of data concerning the students with which they work. Right now, the subject of testing is a volatile one. Most teachers hate the idea of giving a series of tests to their students and with good reason. It causes test anxiety, so much is riding on one test, there’s no room for creativity, and educators feel their ability to do their job is questioned when kids do poorly. I agree with every one of those reasons.
Now for the unpopular part. In schools with a high number of students who need extra help, testing can offer the data to allow teachers to target those needs. As a classroom teacher, approximately 5% of students in each class period had diagnosed learning disabilities. That doesn’t count the kids who had some difficulties and weren’t receiving services. As I tried to plan lessons, it was extremely difficult to make sure I was meeting each student’s individual needs. That was mostly due to not knowing exactly what those needs were.
With a good testing system, teachers can get the right data to ensure they are reaching a student where they are. Throughout yesterday’s training, I heard over and over again, teachers exclaiming that this was the best tool they’d been taught in a long time. Why would teachers be excited about testing their students?? These teachers work with students like I used to: ones who have high needs. They wanted to meet each of those students’ needs and have been spending a large amount of time doing their own data analyses. The testing program was making their lives 10 times easier because it dis-aggregated the data for them.
A good teacher wants to reach each of her students where they are. To do so, giving good tests and using the data to meet student needs is the way to go. How are you meeting the needs of your students with data?