As a Wolfpack WORKS literacy coach, one of my roles is helping beginning teachers make sense of data. When K-2 teachers hear the word “data”, results from required assessment tools such as mCLASS typically first comes to mind. While mCLASS data are incredibly useful and important, I also try to help the teachers with whom I partner see that there are many other essential pieces of information that they should collect formally and informally every day to inform their literacy instruction. We need mCLASS data because it helps us know which reading foundational skills require attention next in order to keep children progressing in their literacy skills; however, it’s critical that we do not create readers’ identities solely based on the reading levels, data “colors,” and/or numbers that mCLASS offers.
The data that beginning teachers and I explore together include assessments that provide information about students’ interests, engagement, attitudes toward reading and writing, self-efficacy, independence in reading and writing, and reading and writing stamina. It is often a relief for teachers to discover that their anecdotal notes are, in fact, a type of incredibly valued data! By using varied data sources, teachers are able to get to know students much more deeply than if they only relied on formal or standardized assessments. Teaching is truly an art and a science and requires educators to balance skill instruction with knowledge of individual students’ personalities, interests, and emotional needs. Formal reading assessments may inform the “needs of the brain”, but informal measures, such as interest inventories and observations of students’ confidence, address those of the heart.
I also work with my beginning teachers to help them understand that mCLASS data should be used to inform instruction in meaningful ways. Consider, for example, the measure of nonsense word fluency. Students are asked to read “fake” words during assessments so that teachers can control for sight word knowledge while gaining an understanding of which phonetic skills students have mastered. When discussing the results of this probe with the beginning teachers I serve, I ensure they understand that, while nonsense words may be important for assessment, they should not be used in instruction because they are not relevant to comprehension (the ultimate reading goal) and can confuse young readers who are growing in their English word knowledge. If the nonsense word assessment shows that a child is confusing two vowel sounds, it is important to intervene on those sounds using real words rather than providing more nonsense word lists to practice. When students complete tasks, they need to feel that there is a purpose for doing them that touches their lives both in and outside of school. Reading a list of nonsense words is not a meaningful and authentic task and doesn’t matter as much to students as reading a book about their favorite animal or writing a sentence about a person they love!
By using multiple sources of data to inform us about children’s hearts as well as their heads, we are able to have a much larger impact on literacy learning outcomes.
Wolfpack WORKS Literacy Coach