Reading test data

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.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Obviously testing is bad for teacher self esteem.

  2. No, you are absolutely incorrect. Teachers are not hostile to testing and analysis of data when it is to *improve teaching*. Testing and analysis of data as mandated by the NCLB cannot be used that way. We don’t see the test the student turned in, and when we do actually see the scores, the student is almost through with their senior year and is certainly not my student anymore. We use these scores to make changes on a large scale, but the test is nearly meaningless for the individual student. Good assessment is part of teaching — we even learn it in Ed. School.

  3. What about assessment for the white and asian students? If the scores of the black and latino students were brought up to white and asian levels, won’t this same program, when administered across the entire student population, just reestablish the “gap.”(albeit at a higher level) or…were they planning on only selective use of the program???

  4. Joanne…

    excellent article, but then you killed it with your bad conclusion…

    The entire time I was reading the article, I was nodding my head in agreement… saying to myself,
    “finally, testing done right!”… the other thing I whole-heartedly agreed with is the importance of training teachers how to read, interpret and apply the diagnostic testing data… testing without this is meaningless…

    Again, excellent article… but I must agree with Rita above… your statement:
    “Sadly, many educators are hostile to testing and data.”
    is utter BS… educators are certainly NOT hostile to diagnostic testing and data whose purpose is to
    guide teachers to better help his/her students… diagnostic testing that has a direct influence on outcomes in the classroom…

  5. Joanne,

    What they are saying: It’s ok to test the kids and hold them responsible; just not the teachers. Unfortunately, they can never be quite sure that those same tests (holding the students responsible) won’t, somehow, be used to hold the teachers responsible too…

    BTW Merry Christmas to all!

  6. The problem in the past HAS been that results are not returned to schools quickly enough or in meaningful format. However, the K12 field is now full of products that can take state test data, present class and individual reports by standard area (or a variety of other sorting techniques) and even point teachers towards remediation resources. The problem has not been that teachers have been hostile to using data–it’s been that the data has been unavailable or unusable.

  7. I’ve run into a lot of teachers who don’t understand the power of diagnostic testing or have the ability to analyze data. Once they learn how to do it, they tend to be enthusiastic, because they can see the results.

    As Agathon says, there are now ways to get very fast test results — instant or next day — so teachers get information they can use.

  8. Andy Freeman says:

    > educators are certainly NOT hostile to diagnostic testing and data whose purpose is to
    guide teachers to better help his/her students.

    Great!

    Where’s the cite to any of the vast numbers of instances where the local or nation teacher’s union that has pushed for such testing?

  9. I don’t understand your non-sequitur, Andy.

  10. Andy Freeman says:

    > I don’t understand your non-sequitur, Andy.

    It’s not a non-sequitur. You/Rita C. wrote that teachers support testing for certain laudable purposes. I’m looking for instances so I can look at details.

    The claim is true, right?

    BTW – I note that almost every other form of work involves testing to answer the question “is this employee doing a good job?”. Why are teachers special?

  11. You’re looking in the wrong place, then. I belong to the NCTE. But since you don’t believe what the actual teachers who comment around here say about their classroom practices, I’m not sure you’d believe that organization, either.

    I’m evaluated every year by the administration, and I can be fired. Duh.

  12. Andy Freeman says:

    > But since you don’t believe what the actual teachers who comment around here say about their classroom practices, I’m not sure you’d believe that organization, either.

    Try again. I do believe – I point out that what you’re saying about what you’re doing is bunk. Disagree? Provide supporting evidence.

    > I’m evaluated every year by the administration, and I can be fired.

    Really – you’re evaluated based on the difference you’ve made in your students? Based on what tests? (The difference is, after all, the sole reason for your employment.) Are you saying that you’re not opposed to such testing? (Diagnostic testing, which you praised above in a comment suggesting opposition to some unspecified kinds of testing, is different.)

    As to the “can be fired” – what percentage of teachers are fired or “encouraged to leave” each year for performance reasons? Do you feel that that number is low, high, about right?

    I note that Rita C still hasn’t provided supporting evidence. I’m willing to believe, but it’s “interesting” that she changes the subject when asked. (I expect that she’ll do the same with respect to the above questions as well.)

    Surely my sins aren’t as interesting as honest attempts to help the children….

  13. Committing a non-sequitur isn’t a sin, even for Dante.

    I’ve been over and over the testing and teacher evaluation issue with you. I’ve talked about how many teachers are let go due to poor performance. I’ve talked about teacher evaluation. You just don’t like my answers because they don’t fit your agenda.

    1. I say what I’m doing is not bunk. I say I am an effective teacher. I say I am a downright astonishingly amazing teacher who works Vatican-verified miracles in the classroom every day. Disagree? Prove it.

    1a. I suppose I could email you copies of my tests, but since you don’t know what lesson plans are behind them, they’d probably be meaningless.

    2. Part of my evaluation is how I work with students as determined by the administrative staff. Disagree? Prove it. Of course, I have the copies of my evals and you don’t, so you’re just going to have to believe me.

    3. I’m not opposed to effective and meaningful teacher evaluation. I never have been. I disagree with you on what makes an effective and meaningful evaluation, however.

    4. I’m guessing the number of teachers let go for poor performance *in my district, which is the only one I have first-hand knowledge of* is about right.Since personnel matters are confidential, I can’t provide any proof. Guess you’ll have to take my word on it again.

    In other words, you have a tendency to ask questions that cannot be proven one way or another in this type of forum, then disagree with the answer. Interesting hobby!

  14. Andy Freeman says:

    > I say I am a downright astonishingly amazing teacher who works Vatican-verified miracles in the classroom every day. Disagree? Prove it.

    That’s the kind of attitude that is going to kill public schools.

    > I’ve talked about teacher evaluation. You just don’t like my answers because they don’t fit your agenda.

    Since my agenda is to get the most education for my tax dollar, Rita is correct.

    I’ve pointed out that teacher evaluation as Rita describes it and advocates has little if anything to do with what people are willing to pay for public schools to do.

  15. Andy Freeman says:

    > Committing a non-sequitur isn’t a sin, even for Dante.

    I mention sin to point out Rita’s preference for discussing me instead of providing information to support her claims.

    Ms Jacobs started this thread with the comment that many educators are hostile to testing and data. Rita disagreed, claiming that certain teachers supported the use of certain kinds of tests. I asked where I could find out more, and she went off on me.

  16. Andy Freeman says:

    > Part of my evaluation is how I work with students as determined by the administrative staff. Disagree?

    Nope, but not particularly relevant.

    > I’m guessing the number of teachers let go for poor performance *in my district, which is the only one I have first-hand knowledge of* is about right.Since personnel matters are confidential, I can’t provide any proof.

    One doesn’t need access to personnel matters to make that call. One merely needs to see whether bad teachers continue to be employed.

    However, that assumes that there is such a thing as a “bad teacher”.

  17. OK, let me understand this: testing to see what students understand, and using the results to re-teach material they did not understand (or skip material they obviously already understand), thus making sure they understand what they need to understand, is NOT what people are willing to pay for?

  18. Andy Freeman says:

    Rita got it in one.

    The point of using diagnostic testing to adjust the process is to adjust the process. The purpose of evaluative testing is to determine how well the process worked.

    The former will improve a broken process; it isn’t particularly well suited to identifying broken processes. The latter will let you know that the process is broken but isn’t particularly well suited to improving processes.

    Note that Rita has expressed support for diagnostic testing (but still hasn’t bothered to tell us where/when teachers have taken the lead in that area so we can look at what actually happened – I suppose that since she said it, we should treat it as gospel).

    Of course, she’s also being somewhat deceptive. The description of her evaluation as a teacher process didn’t mention either evaluative or diagnostic testing. It mentioned only “Part of my evaluation is how I work with students as determined by the administrative staff.”

    But, let’s play along. Are there tests that her students could take whose possible results could suggest that she’s a bad teacher and, perhaps, should be encouraged to find another line of work or different students.

    Note – we’ve already had the “style” discussion – it doesn’t answer the question.