What’s the Big Deal About Data?


by Angela Pagliaro

Data. Data. Data. It’s all you hear about but do you actually know how it helps? You can collect all the data in the world but if you aren’t interpreting it correctly, there’s an issue. Discover the best practices to using data in the classroom!

Students in Special Education have Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) to support their learning needs. IEPs can include both academic and functional annual goals to help students progress in the least restrictive setting. One of the requirements is that these goals be measurable. Teachers need to write goals that can be measured in an objective way. Data on IEP goals must be collected to concretely demonstrate progress.For some great information on how to measure IEP goals with user-friendly examples, click here!

Data is never a problem until it’s a PROBLEM! When data are not collected, not only is there a lack of evidence of students’ progress toward achieving their IEP goals, but evidence of the work done to help them progress also remains undocumented.

So, now that we have established the importance of collecting data to show measurable progress on IEP goals, how can this best be accomplished, especially with all of the challenges educators face?

Here are some common of the concerns I hear from teachers when it comes to collecting data, with some practical solution-oriented tips:

How can I show progress for goals that take students a long time to learn?

  • Try breaking down the student’s annual goal into smaller objectives throughout the year. For each objective, break skills into even smaller teachable parts using specific teaching targets. For example, if you have a student that is supposed to answer comprehension questions about a lesson but can’t yet answer a simple question, you can try breaking the goal down into simple targets, for instance, you might start with the target, “student answers ‘who’ questions about a simple sentence.”

How can I show individual student progress when working in a group instructional setting?

  • Try teaching the group lesson, but taking data on individual student learning needs. For example, if you are teaching a math lesson, one student might be adding two digit numbers but another might only be working on recognizing numbers. You can use Rethink’s new small and large group data sheets to support taking data in a group.
  • You can also take group data during times when data is not often collected like circle time, lunch, recess, specials, etc. Important social data such as responding to peers, making play related comments, taking turns, etc. can be collected during these times. This data is important when parents or team members request to know what students are “learning “ during these times.Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 2.49.01 PM

What if my student is working on higher-level skills such as spelling words, math worksheets, etc.?

  • You can use your data sheets as a “gradebook” in which you record the scores of the student’s tests or permanent product work on a worksheet. This formative data is important because it allows you to show ongoing progress on these skills that can support more subjective coding like “making progress” when you come to the end of a grading period.

Looking for more information on collecting data? Check out this FREE webinar!
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