Data-Driven Instruction Relies on Sound Data Practices
School reform from SB-1 and SB-96 have made financial forecasting and scenario planning for schools in New Mexico more important than ever. Regrettably, New Mexico recently ranked 51 out of 50 states and Washington D.C., but the state is “doubling down” to reverse course and improve achievement outcomes.
Meanwhile, lawmakers, the executive branch, the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED), and statewide educators and administrators are working to collaborate on a critical initiative referred to as “Moving the Needle.” This follows a much publicized lawsuit — the Martinez/Yazzie Consolidated Lawsuit — following which the PED acknowledged “the Court’s ruling that ‘no education system can be sufficient for the education of all children unless it is founded on the sound principle that every child can learn and succeed[.]’”
According to one recent news article:
Along with a proposed $4.3 billion support package from the state Public Education Department, lawmakers are mulling several pieces of legislation for the session, including revamping graduation requirements and increasing the amount of time students spend in school.
Those proposals, lawmakers and education officials have said, aim to improve student outcomes and close gaps for “at-risk” students, tackle statewide educator vacancies and better support schools and their leaders.
If New Mexico is going to be successful at “moving the needle,” it will be critical to measure all of the contributing factors that can impact student achievement — financial and educational alike.
Failing Grades for the Nation’s Report Card?
Educators and school administrators nationwide are still reacting and responding to the release of the “Nation’s Report Card,” issued by the National Assessment of Educational Progress in late 2022. What came to few observers’ surprise was that achievement scores for both mathematics and reading declined significantly during and following the pandemic. Educators are now working hard to reverse those trends and get student outcomes back to pre-pandemic levels.
The good news is that there are concerted efforts like New Mexico’s Move the Needle initiative to counter the learning losses by teachers, administrators, superintendents, assessment professionals and curriculum directors alike. There truly is a “we’re all in this together” spirit that’s noticeable and admirable.
This unified front faces significant obstacles that have also emerged in this same timeframe: a national teacher shortage crisis and an overwhelming amount of work, compliance obligations, reporting duties, and even an avalanche of data to sift through.
Districts are now beginning to discover that less truly can be more — that simplifying and consolidating resources and technology can actually reveal clearer pathways to better educational outcomes, without adding more to our overworked partners in student performance.
What Has Been Done to Address Third-Grade Literacy and Numeracy Rates in New Mexico?
Two of the most often cited metrics for educational progress are third-grade literacy rates and third-grade numeracy (mathematics) rates. Seen as key indicators of future graduation and dropout rates, these proficiency scores are key prognosticators of even distant outcomes, such as incarceration rates and a community’s economic health. When New Mexico officials speak of “moving the needle,” these are two of the most monitored statistics they will consider as success or failure.
Committed to addressing this issue ongoing, educators and administrators in New Mexico have implemented and are focusing on a number of strategies to improve third-grade literacy rates and numeracy, including:
- Early intervention: Schools are providing early intervention services to students who are struggling with reading and math. These services may include tutoring, small group instruction, or one-on-one support. Munetrix has made early intervention one of our top priorities as a company.
- Data-driven instruction: Schools are using data to identify students who are struggling and to target their instruction accordingly. This data may come from state tests, progress monitoring assessments, or teacher observations.
- Differentiated instruction: Schools are working to provide differentiated instruction to meet the needs of all learners. This means that teachers are tailoring their instruction to the individual needs of each student.
- Family engagement: Schools are working to engage families in their children’s education. This may include providing parent workshops, sending home newsletters, or holding parent-teacher conferences.
- Creating a culture of literacy and numeracy in schools. Many public schools in Ohio are making sure that reading and math are valued and that students are given opportunities to practice these skills throughout the day.
By implementing these strategies, schools are working to ensure that all students have the skills they need to succeed in school and in life. But one area in particular that sticks out to me is this notion of “data-driven instruction.”
What is Data-Driven Instruction, and How Can it “Move the Needle?”
In short, data-driven instruction involves gathering together a database of information about the students in each classroom, and using that information to improve the quality of teaching in the classroom. The good news is that access to data has exploded in recent years; the bad news is that, while educators are now data-rich, many struggle with being knowledge-poor.
Too often, all of the data educators need to optimize education outcomes live in disparate silos, making it nearly impossible to access, analyze and leverage for the betterment of students. However, when combined, integrated and overlaid, what often results is that invisible becomes…visible.
We frequently use the term “braiding data,” which is an apt representation of the benefit of such an approach. Individual strings of rope in the physical realm are made much more stronger when braided together than are when used separately and alone. Your data is no different. When intertwined, integrated and interdependent, your various systems become much more than a stack — they become a powerful, complete and cohesive system that honors and accounts for all drivers and outcomes of a school’s or district’s ultimate success.
The stronger the rope, the better it will be to pull students forward and move the needle for an entire state.