Data Meetings: Planning for Growth
October 8, 2018
What comes to mind when I say data meeting?
Not looking for the benefit of data or meeting together. Just thinking about when we sit at that table in that room together. What are we trying to accomplish? Backward glance? Problem Solving? Correcting course?
Do you have a plan in mind?
Many meetings have identity problems. Data Meetings are constructed with the principal, our grade level team, a specialist or two. Data meetings have limited time. Educators arrive with varying amounts of data having spent varying amounts of time examining it. Individuals think in divisions: students that are ‘on track’ and students that are ‘behind’. Cheers for how well they got it. Cheers for our teaching.
Data meetings are available three times a year. In the fall, educators are getting to know new students and assessing summer loss. In the winter, educators may review students acclimation to grade and their mid-year progress. In the spring, educators may reflect on progress toward goals.
The developments from the meetings can varying. When educators have clear indicators they are looking for in the data, they come to the meeting prepared to future plan, both for the immediate and the long term. When indicators are less clear, either from the team or the leadership, meetings feel like show and tell. These meeting have potential. Potential to drive not just particular teachers, not just particular grade levels, but whole learning communities forward. If we only ask,
What did we want to learn? Did we learn it? How will we use this information to reflect, to move forward, to improve?
Do we and can we finding meaning in this work, the work of data meetings?
I know what you’re thinking, sometimes these meetings are just a waste of time. As a person who goes to a LOT of meetings, I’d say meetings are exactly what you make them. I’m sure in some places, people trot out their “data”, test scores, assessment levels, attendance even, and praise each other for how far students have come. Educators race to complete assessments and hair on fire arrive at a meeting with the ink proverbially still drying. We rarely have time to think about what the data might be telling us beyond the scores.
But, we can do better.
When we began data meetings, we were just thinking in the meeting about what new assessment data was telling us. We were learning about the assessments, considering interventions. Considering the data together. Even then, we thought about and discussed how timing affected students, which students might need another go, how else we might assess these skills, what skills we were assessing and their importance. Even then, we were searching for solutions to whole class and individual student difficulties, thinking always about how we could assist each other. The data was drawing us to empathy and to collaboration.
So here we are, eight years later. What are we going to do with our data meetings?
Are they OUR data meetings? We extend the time. We reduce the data. We extend the discussion. We think more about the pedagogy. We shift our thinking regarding intervention. Still stuffed to the breaking point, squeezing all the assessments in a small window and peeking in.
And we still wonder what it is we see.
It all really goes back to those simple questions: what do we want students to learn and how are we going to ‘teach’ facilitate it. Working through our backward design long before we collect the data, deciding together what we are looking for and how we will know it when we see it. Planning for planning. Planning for talking. Taking those assessments out of the drawers and into the light. Considering the purpose for each assessment and consequently each lessons. How can we reteach? What will we reteach? Does this data tell me what I need to know to make these decisions?
This seems like a lot of work, time spent giving the assessments, time spent examining the assessments, time spend aligning the assessment to the curriculum. It may be that the more time we spend on these elements, the less we will need quarterly meetings to discuss them. The more growth we will see in students as the instruction becomes focused on need.
Yes, we could eliminate a meeting. But sometimes, it is beneficial to talk about how we’ve grown and what we will do next.