Data, what does one do with all that Data?

To say that the world of education has data, is to put it mildly. I would not say that education is data driven, but I would say that it, combined with 20140516_144322reflections, Data is highly important. Data can be used to determine best practice, it tells people what is working and what is not working.

Nancy Love writes:

“Without a systemic process for using the data effectively and collaboratively, many school, particularly those” serving low economic “student will languish in chronic low performance in mathematics, science and other content areas – no matter what the pressures for accountability”. (Using Data to Improve Learning for All)

I am sure we can all agree that data has many positives, these positives can guide practice, facilitate change and all one has to do is openly and honestly read the data. During my short time as administrator of a school, I noticed that there was a significant issue in the area of literacy for my school. The question is how do I improve literacy, not what is wrong, or who is not doing what they are supposed, or even why can’t the students learn.

After significant conversation and communication with other administrators and colleagues that I knew that had a back ground in literacy. I decided to create some change in how Literacy was rolled out, delivered and practiced with the students at Seba Beach school.

As we looked at constantly using the data and ensuring that everyone had access to the data to drive educational decisions, a need for a tracking and intervention model became apparent. We needed a system or method that would not only allow for the data to be used, we needed a system that would represent all of the data. A special thanks needs to be given to George Couros. George, in his work came across an idea that he thought I should look into as it would fit my need. George presented me with “Putting Data to Faces“. After having read the book, I made a connection that combining “Response to Intervention” and the data wall from “Putting Data to Faces” would be the most successful and beneficial to my students.

The results were more positive than were expected. The data collected after only five months of the program being implemented showed growth in students in the majority of areas. Going through and comparing other data that was collected throughout the year , it was decided that the program should be implemented in the next school year and that it should be integrated as part of the daily routine of the students and that it would be implemented for all grade levels. After some detailed and tough conversations with teachers and educational staff it was determined that a similar concept but related to Numeracy would also be very beneficial to our students.

images (2)Staff and I worked through combining the two systems and came up with a great system

co1180that uses student data tchanging quarterly with the interventions that are needed whether they are universal or targeted. I am glad to say to ensure the best programming for each individual student it was amazing. I look forward to consistently using the system and watching it evolve and change for each individual student. .

If you would like some information in terms of the process and the implementation, please feel free to contact me or if you have ideas that could be used to modify and improve the concept.

Numeracy – washing away with “I can’t do math”

Numeracy is defined as the ability to reason and to apply simple numerical concepts. Basic numeracy skills consist of comprehending fundamental mathematics like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. For example, if one can understand simple mathematical equations such as, 2 + 2 = 4, then one would be considered possessing at least basic numeric knowledge.

Numbers are everywhere in the world and on a given any given day we do math without even thinking about it.  A numerically literate person can manage and respond to the mathematical demands of life. However, this is a skill that many take fo granted, there are a lot of individuals that struggle with Numeracy.

At Seba Beach School, we have collected data, that reveals that many of our students would benefit from a Numeracy program, somewhat similar to the literacy programthat we have in place. Similar to the Literacy program, the Numeracy programs philosophy is that students learn best when they are taught at their level, with students at their level, in small groups and that the basics need to be learned and understood before moving to a new concept.

To ensure that the students are working at the appropriate levels and that they are also being challenged, at the beginning of the year the literacy level of each student was assessed. After the students were assessed they were placed into groups with students that are at the same level and to this group was assigned an educational staff.1057072

In October the majority of students have been working on improving and fine tuning their skills and tools related to mental math. An example of this would the skills and tools that students can use to solve. Everyone chooses a specific method to complete a question, but the idea is not to have every student complete the question in the same way, but for students to be familiar with all of the techniques and choose the one that appeals the best to them. Below are three examples of this.

Rounding                                                    Breaking Down                                                           Counting On

74-38=                                                        74-38 =                                                                          74-38=

round up by 2 to get 40                       74- (30 & 8)                                                                  38 to 40 is up by 2

74-40 = 34                                                74-30 = 44                                                                   40 to 70 is up by 30

34 up by 2 is 36                                       44-8 = 36                                                                      70 to 74 is up by 4

Ans = 36                                                     Ans = 36                                                                       2+30+4 = Ans 36

Students are shown these as well as the traditional format and others and practice using them, then students are free to choose their method of preference.

Not only are the Numeracy groups great for interventions to assist children in Math, but the groups also allow for more individualized focus for where students need the help and alternative practice in an environment where competition is not present, because students are grouped based on abilities.

Personally, I know that the students that I am working with are having fun, and they are still being challenged to do better and make improvements in their skills. As well, since the groupings and the information being covered is directly tied and coordinated with the new JUMP math that is being used in all of our math classes, our students are seeing the continuity. If you have any questions or would like some information, please feel free to contact the school and ask for Mr. Ram or Mrs. Wong.

Staff are excited about the design and implementation of our Numeracy program and all of its possibilities. . We are looking forward to the successes of our students, to seeing the results of students being more independent and confident. Overall, the staff at Seba Beach are looking forward to making our belief and mindset that “ALL STUDENTS CAN LEARN” a reality.  Come, join us.

It shouldn’t be about the NUMBER

Although it seems a little redundant to say, I will still say it. There are tones and tones of numbers in education. Aside from the obvious, Numeracy, many aspects and elements of a school are based on numbers. How many students are with in a school, the number of school days in the calendar, what the budget looks like throughout the year, student identification number, even down to how many cases of pencils will be needed to get through the year. It is easy to say that a significant amount of time, with respect to my job, is looking at and working with the numbers. This directs the conversation towards the reason for this post.

Next year my school will join the remainder of my school division in the format used for reporting students achievements, accomplishments and struggles. So, what this means in simplicity is that students report cards will not have letter grades or percentages listed on them, remembering my school is a K-9 school. The high schools in our division will still be using percentages to coordinate with the requirements of the post secondary institutes within Alberta.

As my teachers have been going through the learning process, preparing for the transition to the new division reporting format, I have been developing ideas, presentations and gathering information for parents who I will be meeting with on multiple occasions over the next few months. I will be meeting with parents to walk them through the process and change. While I have been preparing my thoughts and presentations, I have taken opportunities to inquire with parents both in my school’s community and in other communities about their feelings about the transition.

Although there are many concerns, stipulations and arguments as to why the traditional format should remain, during this post I am only going to focus on the need to have a percentage. The most common comment I have heard about the need for percentages it that it tells parents where the students are in the class, where they are in relation to their peers and how much they are learning.

In reality however, a percentage tells you pretty much nothing with accuracy. The reason I say this is that percentages, much like statistics, can be manipulated. Below I have two pictures, for example purposes that show two completely different percentages for grade 8 science. However if you look carefully the raw score achievements are identical. The difference is the weighting for the individual assessment sections such as assignments, quizzes, exams etc.

As you can clearly see there is a 19% difference between the two scores.  What does this mean. Well, according to this, nothing. This is just one of the reasons I am a strong believer in the new reporting process. The new process describes how a student is doing with respect to the skills, attributes and process that are involved in each subject. Basically the new reporting process tells you what a student can do without assistance, what a student can do with help and what a student can not do. In addition there are comments and strategies.

A simple percentage does not do this. When we go to the doctor we wouldn’t accept that we are functioning at a 75% health level, we would ask for clarification. If we took our vehicle in for maintainance and the mechanic said the car is at a 80%, we would ask for clarification. If your boss said you preformed your job at 78%, you would ask for more detail.  Why is it  then so easy to accept that a child has 75% in Language Arts.  Students are individuals with different skills, abilities and talents, so let’s comment on what they can do, are learning to do and need help with rather than just making them a number.

The need for change in Education

During today’s #edchat there were amazing conversation’s and discussions about life long learning, passion (creating it or finding it) but in addition to this where some great questions and conversations about how education needs to change and why. I would love to say that I have some great and innovative ideas, but I think at present they are works in progress.

I did however want to share this great video, which relates to a speech given by Ken Robinson about Changing how we view education (Changing Education Paradigms) and why the change is necessary.

It is a great video – I hope you take the time to watch it if you haven’t already seen it.

The Key to Differentiated Learning

Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with, discussing and dissecting the ideas and process behind Differentiated Learning with many of my colleagues at our schools professional development day. As colleagues, experts and learners we talked about many of the themes and issues that surround differentiated learning.

The four major areas and concepts that we looked at were:

Planning for Differentiation

Academic Differentiation

Differentiating for Social Readiness

Assistive Technology

Without going into specific details and describing the outcomes of our conversations. I will tell you that there was one resounding theme and concept. This concept, it is not new and most successful educators and administrators already practice it. The best part is that it doesn’t take extra planning, special programming, expensive technology, changes in curriculum or extensive meetings or reports. So what is this amazing idea and concept:

KNOW YOUR STUDENTS!

There are warehouses, servers and shelves upon shelves of information and research I could share with you or direct you to, but I will have to agree and completely stand behind this  idea. Knowing your students is the most effective way to provide the best learning environment and learning experience for the students that we teach.

What do you do to really get to know your students?

Students Research with two forms of presentation.

On Tuesday the students, with the inventiveness of a colleague (Angela MacTaggert) began a unit focusing on Animals, specifically students will be looking at animals found both in a terrestrial and aquatic environment. You guessed it we will be looking at Amphibians.

Before they began their adventure, Angela asked the students what animals they would like to learn about, being that there was such variety of choices, she decided to give each student an individual project to one determine their understanding of research but also to continue with the skills they are working on in writing, spelling, social media and technology.

Students were told that they needed to have 8 pages in their assignment and were also given the titles of these pages. Initially students were told that the presentations would be done in a booklet, but I also had them make a power point presentation. Finally students were asked to write a small guided reflection about the assignment/project. Aside from the paper booklet all work was, including research was completed using their computers. Below is one of the projects that were handed in first.

Here are the questions for the research project with the students answers:

The student created a hand made visual representation and then one using a technological application that they were comfortable using. Here are two quick videos of the students two creations.


http://player.vimeo.com/video/15818067

Untitled from sram on Vimeo.

http://player.vimeo.com/video/15846961

hamster2 from sram on Vimeo.

Finally the reflection sheet that the student submitted in relation to some questions I asked of them:

Yesterday in class we did a project so that we could learn about the animals. I chose a hamster because it is my favorite animal. I liked this project because I love animals and the zoo! My favorite part was when we did their appearance. Next time I would love to pick a magical animal.

I ask that you please comment so that I may show my students that there are others in the world that can see their work and have advice or compliments for them.

Little Leaders – chosing an assignment

Grade 4 Student

In an attempt to continue my work in building little leaders, I thought I would allow, at least for one assignment,  the students to pick (as a majority) how they would show or display their individual understandings of patterns in Mathematics.

As we are just beginning of our small but detailed unit focusing on Patterns and I wanted a quick and easy assessment of the students understandings and perceptions of patterns. After a lengthy discussion on what would be the best assignment. We had to come up with some initial criteria (an area I obviously have to put some more work into).

Here are the criteria we came up with.

Grade 5 Student

Teacher:

Had to be individual not copied or printed.

Had to have their name on the back.

Student:

Only one shape.

Colors show pattern.

Lines should be straight. – – – inquired what lines – – – the lines the patterns are in.

Coloring should be neat – – – – I inquired what is neat – – – – inside the lines.

Entire page should be colored.

Grade 5 Student

As you can see, scattered through out the post are the completed assignments. I will wait till the end of the unit to once again ask them to complete a picture representation of patterns. However by then we will have gone over more in relation to criteria and in self evaluation. This should allow me to ask each student to compare and evaluate their work.