Frequent diagnostic testing and good data analysis improves learning, says a study of 32 Bay Area schools. In particular, black and Hispanic students catch up when their teachers learn how to analyze test data. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
Researchers from the Bay Area School Reform Collaborative looked at achievement levels in two groups of 16 schools (kindergarten through eighth grade) with similar ethnic and low-income populations. In one group, black and Latino students were doing as well or better than their white and Asian American classmates. In the other group, the ethnic groups reflected the well-known “achievement gap”: Less than a third of black and Latino students typically score at the national average in reading, while more than two-thirds of white and Asian American students scored at or above the national average.
The researchers found that schools where black and Latino students’ test scores were rising did many things differently from the lower-achieving schools. Most notably, teachers diagnosed students’ needs a few times each week then changed how they worked with the kids based on what the data revealed.
. . . Besides frequent diagnostic tests, they found that at the higher- achieving schools, teachers were more likely to learn how to analyze data and apply it to teaching. Also, principals usually considered closing the achievement gap a primary goal, more people of color held leadership positions, and school goals were usually clear and focused.
The federally funded “Reading First” program requires teachers to assess children every two weeks. Then teachers adapt instruction to students’ specific learning needs.
I did my own little study several years ago of high-achieving schools with high minority enrollment. All the successful schools had learned to analyze testing data and use the results to improve teaching. Sadly, many educators are hostile to testing and data.