An effective method of guidance for refining teaching strategies is to analyze student data. By analyzing trends in student performance, classroom teachers can adjust their instructional methods to meet the needs of the students, as depicted in the data points. While test scores and other forms of student data abound in our schools, we need to take the next step as classroom teachers to analyze this data and utilize it to drive daily instruction.
But while we encourage teachers to analyze their formative assessments and make adjustments to instruction based upon this data, this is usually not extended to department heads, building or district level administrators, or leadership teams. Educators in these roles typically focus upon the summative data collected from standardized test scores.
“Good teaching requires frequent feedback from students to check not only learning progress, but also to monitor the efficacy of the pedagogical processes selected by the teacher” (Heritage, 2007).
A recent case study supports the importance of district-level leadership on data-driven instruction, as part of distributed leadership for instructional improvement. While an administrator may appropriately distribute responsibility for school improvement across the district, this often does not extend to influencing classroom instruction. Leaders of successful districts support teachers and building-level administrators in ensuring that there is time, training, and appropriate student assessment in place for effective data analysis.
Formative assessments are an excellent tool to monitor student progress and modify instruction. A crucial element of successful use of formative assessments is building time into the schedule of classroom teachers and leadership teams to analyze student data and encourage professional conversations about how the data points can best drive classroom instruction.