- Associated Press - Sunday, June 19, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Students in Jeananne Soukup’s fourth-grade classroom know exactly where their math abilities stand.

Soukup has a “data wall” in her Anne Sullivan Elementary classroom showing different levels of ability, and as students progress from addition to multiplication, they move their small drawings up another rung.

The idea for the wall stemmed from the school’s participation in a national study on data-driven instruction, a way of quantifying student success through data and letting students know how they’re progressing, the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/1rqQDLb ) reported.

“Students really, really got hooked with that … They love the data wall,” Soukup said. “And I think it was a motivator for them.”

Part of data-driven instruction is showing visual representations of student progress, but it’s primarily a way for teachers to assess student progress and evaluate teaching methods.



Three schools in the Sioux Falls School District were selected for the two-year study in 2014, and the district will continue piloting the program for another year, according to a report presented to the school board recently.

Teachers in a data-driven classroom start by asking questions about what they need to learn about students and determine what data they need.

“It really requires them to understand how to gather evidence of learning,” said Ann Smith, coordinator for federal programs and libraries.

Evidence of learning does not just mean test scores, Smith said.

It could be as simple as noticing that one student is still counting on his fingers while classmates have moved to multiplication, which is something teachers traditionally do already.

Data-driven instruction takes that knowledge a step further, and students track progress based on various rubrics and student performance on quizzes and assignments.

Teachers then work with one another to look at how students are performing and figure out the best ways to make sure everyone is progressing. They share teaching strategies and talk about what does and doesn’t work in the classroom.

“It’s kind of our system for ensuring learning for all students,” Data Coach Bryan Conner said.

In practice, it’s a matter of noticing right away when a student needs more help.

A student in Soukup’s class had excelled in addition, subtraction and multiplication, but when Soukup noticed she was not doing well on a division assignment, she pulled the girl aside and worked with her to figure out the problem right away.

Instead of waiting for the unit test to track the student’s progress, Soukup was able to track her division abilities on a daily assignment.

Smith said while “data-driven” could stir up fears of a move toward merit-based pay for teachers, that’s not the goal.

Soukup sees where those concerns come from, but as she finishes her second year of data-driven instruction, she’s learned to let the numbers guide instruction without feeling like she’s being personally evaluated with each data set.

Merit-based pay would also discourage teachers from collaborating, Soukup said, but with data-driven instruction, she’s seen the opposite happen.

“We want to share ideas,” she said. “We want to hear what everyone else is doing. We want to know what works.”

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Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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