How to Use Data in the Classroom

Close-up of projector in classroom.
... Brian Jackson/iStock/Getty Images

Data, especially student scores, is extremely important for teachers in the 21st century classroom. Although reading through much of the data is a painstaking process, the information allows a teacher to accomplish several goals. Teachers can create mixed-level reading and math groups, set achievable goals, chart progress and recommend students for resource room and special assistance in subjects where those students need improvement.

1 Creating Mixed-Level Groups

Although standardized testing is unpopular with many teachers, the scores are helpful for grouping students. Designing mixed-level reading and math groups is preferable to single-level groups because pairing high-scoring students with low scoring students opens up peer teaching opportunities, where students teach other students as an aid to the teacher. For example, pairing a student who earned a 3 or 4 on the New York State ELA exam with a student who scored a 1 is helpful to the lower-performing student so long as the teacher ensures that the high-scoring student is helping him or her with their reading and writing.

2 Setting Achievable Goals

Test scores allow teachers to design measurable, achievable goals for students. For example, if the data indicates that a third-grade reading student is only able to write three sentences in a paragraph, a teacher can design a flow chart with an introduction square, three detail squares and a concluding sentence square as part of a goal to expand to a five-sentence paragraph. However, test score data is only one part of setting goals. Teachers have to know the exact reasons why a student earned a specific score, so administering a diagnostic exam early in the school year is extremely important to find weaknesses and develop goals that strengthen those weaknesses.

3 Charting Progress

Charting progress involves any number of criteria. For example, a good way to measure progress is by using a curriculum-based measurement probe. A CBM writing probe gives the student a paragraph starter. The student is expected to brainstorm and write creatively, or in free form, for up to three minutes and expand on the paragraph starter. Afterward, check for logical progression and grammar. Develop a scale for both criteria. The scales allow the teacher to determine whether the student's writing improves over several weeks.

4 Resource Room and Special Support

Test scores allow teachers to recommend students for resource room instruction and special education support in reading and math. Before a student receives extra instruction, the parents must approve in writing. Occasionally, extremely low scores on exams reveal a learning disability not initially diagnosed by the teaching staff or confirmed after the teaching staff suspected a disability. In this respect, data gives teachers hard evidence that allows them to fight for resource room instruction or special education classification that could assist the student in the long run.

Daniel Pinzow served as an urban science teacher for several years. He has expertise in a variety of subjects, ranging from biology to chemistry to history to sports. In addition, he has worked extensively in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) after-school programs.