All Articles Education Edtech Students use data to steer their learning

Students use data to steer their learning

Data conversations, data walls help students guide learning, track growth.

4 min read




Junction Elementary School is one of four elementary schools in the Turner School District USD #202, located in in Kansas City, Kansas. It has 300 preK-5 students and strives to create a learning environment that promotes productivity, responsibility and self-reliance in each child. An important part of this is ensuring that all students are active participants in their growth and success.

Measuring student growth is a key component of our approach to learning. We know that children learn better — and faster — when teachers have a clear picture of what students know and are ready to learn next.

Our school has been using NWEA’s MAP Growth, a computer-adaptive interim assessment that measures students’ academic performance and growth. We administer the test three times a year — beginning, middle and end of the year– so we can track students’ progress throughout the school year and across multiple years.

In 2015, the assessment data showed that a large percentage of students weren’t meeting expected growth targets. School leaders met to discuss the situation and craft an action plan. That’s when we realized that while we had a tool for measuring student growth, we did not understand what the data was telling us about each student. We knew we needed a new approach.

We started with data conversations — collaborative discussions that our teachers have with each student about their MAP Growth assessment scores. These conversations include setting goals before every testing window and monitoring growth after each assessment. Data conversations show students what they know and are ready to learn next; it lets them monitor their own learning and take ownership of their growth. Students track their progress through these conversations and data notebooks.

Next, we used the assessment data to create schoolwide intervention groups and set goals (schoolwide and classroom) for conditional growth (a student’s percentile rank for growth). We also created a schoolwide data wall for teachers and faculty to track the school’s growth in reading. Each student’s MAP scores were recorded on individual data cards. The data cards were placed on the wall to correspond with each student’s conditional growth. The data wall provided a quick glance and overall picture of growth across the school. Allowing faculty to see all of the data in one place, at one time, allowed us to quickly identify trends in growth, to evaluate if interventions were successful and to address areas of need for specific students and sub groups of students.  

Data conversations have been the catalyst that helped close achievement gaps and drive positive results at Junction Elementary. During the first year — Fall 2016 – 2017 — of our data conversations, 83% of classroom teachers had conditional growth scores in reading of over 50%, compared to 20% of classrooms the year before. From fall to winter for the 2017 – 2018 school year, conditional growth scores continued their success, showing that 83% of classroom teachers met or exceeded 50% growth. Additionally, over the past two years the percentage of students in the “average to high average” achievement levels has increased.

As educators, it’s our responsibility to use data in a way that overhauls the learning experience for students — one that helps them grow and succeed. Our staff is excited about the results of the data because it’s validating that what we are doing is making a difference.

Christina Compton-Haggard is the principal at Junction Elementary Kansas City, Kansas. She served as an elementary principal in both Excelsior Springs and Independence, Missouri before joining the Junction community. Prior to her role as principal, Compton-Haggard taught first and second grade and was an instructional coach in the North Kansas City School District.

Leasha Wolterman is the instructional coach at Junction Elementary Kansas City, Kansas. She is currently in her seventh year as an instructional coach for the Turner School District. Wolterman enjoys collaborating with teachers across the four elementary schools she serves. Prior to becoming an instructional coach, she was a fourth grade teacher for nine years.

Tech Tips is a weekly column in SmartBrief on EdTech. Have a tech tip to share? Contact us at [email protected].


Like this article? Sign up for SmartBrief on EdTech to get news like this in your inbox, or check out all of SmartBrief’s education newsletters , covering career and technical education, educational leadership, math education and more.