V.4 #2 Best Practices - The End of the First Quarter: Using Data to Inform Instruction and Next Step
As the first quarter closes, it should be a time of reflection for teachers, students and parents. The report card is a useful data source that provides information for all. Generally speaking attendance and tardiness data are recorded, as are grades/scores for content areas, and usually ratings on effort and behavior. The report card provides vital information to inform next steps for instruction, and intervention if needed.
The federal government is requiring schools to put Response to Intervention (RTI) programs in place across the country. For all intents and purposes, this is a general education initiative that speaks to assuring that we are monitoring behavior and instruction in schools and assuring that the behavioral plans and the instruction we are providing results in gains for our students. We are being asked to be increasingly accountable and to assure that we differentiate when needed, based on the success (or lack thereof) that our students experience—the report card is a benchmark or measurement of sorts for success in the school year. This first quarter is crucial to future success.
For teachers, the first quarter represents a benchmark. With the data entered onto the report card, it becomes clear as to patterns (perhaps in attendance, tardiness, or behavior) that impact learning. It is a time to look closely at patterns for our students who are having difficulty and assure that a plan for improvement is in place. The RTI initiative requires this, and good teaching presumes that planning to reverse underachievement occurs swiftly and is implemented with fidelity. Recommendations should be made at this time for extra assistance for struggling learners, in the form of academic intervention services, homework assistance, peer-tutoring where appropriate, extra help, and other interventions as deemed appropriate. This is the time for teachers to get help with students from their instructional support teams, where patterns of failure begin to emerge.
Parents should also look to the report card for important data. Are the grades where you anticipated they would be for your student? If not, have you reached out to the teachers, or have they reached out to you? Is the attendance record accurate, and do you see patterns, such as Friday absences where your child is certain there will be testing, for example. Look at effort and behavior—do the grades match what you are seeing at home, if not, you may want to reach out to the teacher to assure that your child receives the help he/she needs. Ask what you can do to assure success, and when needed, ask what the school can do to support your learner, if necessary.
Students should also review their report card as a data source. Teach your child to carefully review and reflect upon the report card as a barometer for current and future success. Does this representation of the child’s work and effort paint the picture that he/she wants? Does it represent the work completed this quarter? If so, then bravo—if not, what are the next steps? Using data to inform next steps applies to the student as well. Setting reasonable goals for improvement, and determining a success plan to get there is tantamount to success—and this goal-setting is an important life skill as they move forward to the world of work or future studies.
If the first quarter report card is not as expected, it should be a time of encouragement, commitment, and development of next steps as an educational team (teacher–parent–student) to assure growth, and adequate yearly progress for all students. It is a time to determine what is not working and to change the game plan—more of the same is rarely the answer. What strategies will guarantee success moving forward? What commitment will each stakeholder make to the success? Are benchmarks and progress monitoring in place to assure that success? That’s responding to intervention—RTI in a nutshell—assuring that someone is paying attention to growth, and when that growth does not happen—the team is intervening in a way that makes sense for the student’s increased success. Review the first quarter data, and assure that there’s a plan for success—if this first quarter leaves something to be desired, work to assure that a plan is developed and delivered with fidelity.
Learning Disabilities Worldwide (LDW®): Watch for their upcoming Response to Intervention Conferences in November 2011.
Intervention Central (www.interventioncentral.org/)
Lois R. Favre, Ed. D. is the Superintendent of Schools at the Bridgehampton Union Free School District in Bridgehampton, New York. Before joining the Bridgehampton team, she has worked as an Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, a Pupil Personnel Services Director and a Special Education Teacher. She is well-published in the field of education and has presented both nationally and internationally on topics such as differentiation, students who learn differently, change process, learning styles, leadership and best practices.