How can teachers determine whether students are making appropriate progress?
Page 7: Make Data-Based Instructional Decisions
Before she can confidently obtain a clear picture of the student’s performance, the teacher should graph at least six data points. Too few data points can lead to an inaccurate interpretation, whereas gathering too many data points may result in a failure to address a student’s needs in a timely manner. On any given day, a student’s performance might or might not be an accurate reflection of her knowledge and skills due to circumstances as common as illness or fatigue. A greater number of data points will help to reduce errors in decision making.
To gain a clear understanding of how a student is performing, it is recommended that a teacher collect between six and eight data points. For many students, six data points (such as in the graph on the left) will allow the teacher to make an informed instructional decision. For other students, the teacher might need to collect slightly more data (such as in the graph on the right) to make an informed instructional decision.
Once at least six data points have been collected, the teacher is ready to evaluate a student’s performance and determine whether the student is on track to meet her long- or short-term goal. For a teacher who progress monitors once per week, this equates to reviewing data and making instructional decisions approximately every six weeks. Regular ongoing evaluation will allow the teacher to assess the effectiveness of instruction for individual students, or perhaps the entire class, and make any needed changes to instruction in a timely manner.
One way teachers can evaluate student performance is to use the Four-Point Method, which involves examining the relationship between the four most recent data points and the goal line on the student’s graph. Determining whether the data points are above, below, or on the goal line allows the teacher to make a data-based instructional decision, sometimes referred to as data-driven instruction (DDI). The table below illustrates how to use this method to interpret student data and to determine the corresponding instructional response.
|Position of the Four Most Recent Data Points||Instructional Response|
Above the goal line…
Increase the goal — If most of the points are higher than the goal line, the student’s performance is exceeding expectations and a slightly more ambitious goal is needed.
Below the goal line…
Change instruction — If most of the points are below the goal line, the student is not making progress. In this case, the teacher should try a different instructional approach and continue to collect data to see whether the instructional change helps the student make progress.
Around the goal line…
Make no changes — If most of the points are around the goal line, the student is on target to meet the year-end goal, and the instructional method appears to be working. No changes to instruction are necessary at this time.
Note: Though incorporating the Four-Point Method as part of the decision-making process permits quicker decisions, it should not be used on its own. In the case of students who do not have a pattern of four consecutive scores above or below the goal line, the teacher should compare the student’s goal line and trend line (the straight line representing the general direction of the graphed scores) to make a data-based instructional decision.
For Your Information
As noted in the table, when data indicate that a student is not making progress, the teacher should try a different instructional approach. The most effective way to teach concepts and procedures is to implement evidence-based practices (EBPs)—practices and strategies that have been shown to be effective through rigorous research. The IRIS Module, High-Quality Mathematics Instruction: What Teachers Should Know highlights four EBPs for improving student outcomes in mathematics:
- Explicit, systematic instruction
- Visual representations
- Schema instruction
- Metacognitive strategies
This module also highlights a number of effective classroom practices that a teacher can implement to try to improve the mathematical performance of one or more students:
- Encouraging student discussion
- Presenting and comparing multiple solutions
High-leverage practices (HLPs) are fundamental or foundational practices that are critical for student learning and improved outcomes. There are high-leverage practices for both for general educators and special educators. This module aligns with the following HLPs.
HLP17: Interpreting the results of student work, including routine assignments, quizzes, tests, projects, and standardized assessments. Learn more at TeachingWorks.
HLP6: Use student assessment data, analyze instructional practices, and make necessary adjustments that improve student outcomes. Click here to learn more about the HLPs for special educators developed by CEEDAR and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).
Graphing the Data of Struggling Students
Recall that GOM data can help the teacher identify individual students who may need a change of instruction or additional instructional support. To indicate when a change of instruction occurs (e.g., adding small-group instruction, changing instructional strategies), the teacher should draw a dotted vertical line on the graph—sometimes referred to as a phase change line. This dotted line allows school personnel to compare progress made before and after the change to instruction. Moving forward, the teacher should continue to administer the same probes and use the same scoring procedures to determine whether the change in instruction resulted in improved performance.
Ms. Wu is ready to evaluate her students’ performance and make instructional decisions based on their GOM graphs. She will begin with Lana and Raymond.
Using Lana’s CBM graph above, evaluate her performance using the Four-Point Method:
- Her last four data points are:
- Which instructional decision should Ms. Wu make?
Using Raymond’s CBM graph above, evaluate his performance using the Four-Point Method:
- His last four data points are:
- Which instructional decision should Ms. Wu make?