How Do We Share The Stories Behind The Data?

For years now, I’ve been analyzing data based on kids that I know. These kids aren’t numbers. They’re not test scores, math scores, or reading scores. For each of these children, I can also answer all of the questions below.

  • Did the child have breakfast this morning?
  • Did I make sure to connect with the child before the testing started? Did we talk, read a book together, or share a snack?
  • Did I pick a good time for the testing? Did the child get to run around first? Did the child get to connect with friends? Did I choose the morning or the afternoon? When is that children calmer? More focused? Better able to show me his/her best?

Then there are the results of these tests. Scores only give me part of the picture. What about the human component?

  • Where did the child start? Where is the child now?
  • How did the child approach the task?
  • Did the child’s attitude towards these tasks change during the year? If so, how?
  • What about the contributing factors to the score? Reading, writing, and oral language are so heavily connected. How am I viewing each of these pieces in the scores themselves?

I keep thinking about a DRA (reading assessment) that I did at the end of the school year. When I asked this child to come read with me, he said, “I know I can do this. I’m a much better reader now. I’ve worked hard on this!” This kindergarten student recognized his growth as a reader. This was the same child last year who told me, “I can’t read!” As I listened to this child read, I quickly recognized that he relies a lot on sight words, and that continuing to focus on letter-sound combinations and how they connect with picture cues will help him attack more challenging words. This may also increase his reading confidence, which will help with fluency. While these observations helped me make note of some next steps (ones that my teaching partner, Paula, and I also focused on recently based on his reading in class), I also continued to listen as he worked his way through the given text. On paper, this child is now reading at the beginning of Grade 1. His score is a good one, but his story is a better one.

I keep coming back to this story today, as earlier, I read these great tweets from Kristi Keery-Bishop.

I think that Kristi read my mind yesterday, for I was certainly experiencing some similar thoughts. Yesterday, I had my first day at my new school. As part of our morning staff meeting, I had an opportunity to dig into some kindergarten data. The problem: I didn’t know any of these students. They were simply numbers on a page, and the numbers had me wondering more than analyzing.

  • What other factors are at play here?
  • Did the child show growth over the course of the year? In what areas?
  • What does targeted intervention look like for this child?
  • How might Self-Reg, and stressors in the Five Domains, figure into this data? How might we address these stressors?

By posing questions to members of the kindergarten team, I heard some stories about these children, but other voices were missing. What about the children’s voice? Imagine if unpacking the data also meant bringing the child’s voice, the educator’s voice, and maybe even the parent’s voice to the table. I think about how much Paula and I learned over the past three years by having many diverse voices as part of the learning and as part of the next steps. We know the value of pedagogical documentation when it comes to supporting student learning. How might some school-wide learning stories add to our understanding of data and our development of next steps? How do we share the stories behind the numbers? It took to being the new person on staff to realize that numbers are rarely enough.


2 thoughts on “How Do We Share The Stories Behind The Data?

  1. Hi Aviva,
    As always, I really appreciate your perspective on this. When I wrote those tweets I was frustrated by our school year end reporting obligations of data and how they really don’t tell the story of school growth and change in a year. Your blog proves the parallel dilemma of class/student reporting of data not being enough to tell the story. I wonder, as do you I think, how we balance the need for data with more completely representing growth, strengths and needs. If we honour a focus on conversations, observations and products as all having a place in understanding our students, school or district, I think we have to find other more complete ways to capture our data. Because right now student, class and school data seems far more heavily weighted by product alone. Thanks for expanding my thinking on this. I wonder what we can do about it?

    • Thanks for the comment, Kristi! You’re definitely showing me the school side to this data piece as I’m thinking through the classroom side. I wonder if there’s a way to collect observations and conversations in addition to the product. As classroom teachers, we know the importance of the triangulation of data, and yet, when we need to bring work to the table, how often do we just bring a final product? Is this what also happens here? Since so much data is collected and shared electronically now, is there a way to make links to learning stories, links to video conversations, and even links to anecdotal notes, a part of this data collection? Would these other components help share the stories behind the numbers? I wonder … Curious if other Boards have tried something different before, and how these other pieces might better highlight student, staff, and school growth.


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