Diving into Data- Tracking Systems that Work

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For the longest time I fought with data practices. I hated the word data. I hated sitting in PD about data. I hated tracking data. I HATED DATA!

Now that I got that off my chest, I have a confession to make…. I appreciate data. I mean, I still have a LONG way to go before I can say I love data (eww!), but I have turned a corner and can say I see the value in giving it my attention.

I hated data because I felt it distracted me from teaching my students. I had to keep checklists, write anecdotal notes and constantly make student learning groups… it was TOO MUCH! It also made me feel that I was judging my students unfairly. They suddenly were just a number on a test and I slotted them away into respective small groups for intervention. What an awful feeling if they ever knew I had to view them in such a way. Their strengths and level of understanding rarely reflected itself in the data points and that in itself was frustrating.

However, as I started to coach new teachers I realized they weren’t as in tune with their students as I felt I was with my own. They hadn’t developed that instinct and couldn’t read between the lines. They needed concrete evidence to make decisions and help them overcome the fear of making a “wrong” decision instructionally. I realized data tracking was necessary for THEM.

You know what? Over time, I started to figure out how to make data collection work for my teaching style and not upset my flow. I was able to still see my kiddos shine and knew they had more to them than a data point, but I also felt I was being very strategic in providing targeted instruction when I had numbers to back it up. I had finally found a way to make this whole data thing not so miserable. (Thank you new teachers who embrace this practice- as a veteran, I needed more than time!)

Teachers often ask me how to collect data. I realized there’s no one way to collect data and finding your own system is really what determines your own success to make the data work for your students and yourself. I looked at what other teachers were creating and what other companies were proposing and I couldn’t make it work for me. A clipboard with a checklist was a barrier for me in connecting with my kids when they were in the classroom, but I needed a way to track all my observations in the moment before I would forget them.

I decided to have kiddos come to me instead of me to them so my data could be on a small desk nearby but I could be present the entire interaction. Before calling the next student, or groups of students, I jotted a few notes and moved on. This worked for me. If all I had to do was record assessment scores into a spreadsheet so I could look for trends, I saved that for time on my couch with my pup and favorite reality TV show. I didn’t need to concern myself with that during classroom hours.

Then came the time that I needed to apply my passion for student ownership and accountability to data tracking… double eww! Let me tell you this… it was the BEST thing I ever kid for my kids. I had them create a section in their subject notebooks to keep track of their test grades and then they would graph  the data point. It was a great way to integrate math into all subjects, but visually students were able to see their progress. We drew a very dark line all across the graph at the 80% mark for mastery. Kiddos loved to see how close they were to meeting the goal (or even how much they surpassed this goal). Now I wasn’t the one stressing about performance because students were seeing the cause/effect of paying attention in class, studying, and applying themselves on all types of assessments. Overtime, their grades improved.

I now encourage teachers to make time to meet with students solely about data. We do a lot of conferencing in reading and writing, and that somewhat spilled over into math instruction towards the latter part of my time in the classroom. But data is not subject specific and should be looked at holistically to get a picture of a student in all academic areas.

To best help teachers pass the torch to students in terms of data collection and analysis, I put together some tracking sheets.

Three are for the teacher:

  • Class at a Glance- to see how all of your students did in comparison to each other on assessments
  • Student at a Glance- to analyze patterns of one specific student over a period of time
  • Data Conferencing- a planning guide to pull out specific data points to discuss and space to record discussion points with the student during the 1:1 conference

Three are for the student:

  • Test Recording Sheet- a simple log to place all test names and scores
  • Assessment Graph- a visual picture of progress over a period of time by plotting data points
  • Data Reflection Sheet- a planning guide to celebrate success, focus on areas of weakness, and to devise a plan when meeting with the teacher for support

Even better, I included examples of these forms filled out so you can see the true power behind these resources. I hope they bless your instruction like they did mine and countless other teachers.

See what teachers are saying about this product:

  • On January 8, 2017, Mary Kay L. said: “Wonderful resource.”
  • On August 2, 2017, Barbara H. said: “Wonderful resource to help with data collection.”
  • On August 19, 2017, Buyer said: “Much needed! Thanks!”
    On August 20, 2017, Melinda M. said: “Perfect for my kids to track their own data!”



How do you track data?

About the author, Gretchen

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.