3.6 min read

One of the great debates in education is over-testing. Each year, students take dozens of assessments, including:

  • Classroom quizzes
  • Unit tests
  • Performance tasks
  • State-mandated tests
  • College entrance exams

For now, let’s set aside the discussion regarding the sheer number of assessments your students take. How can you, as an educator, make the most of each assessment your students complete?

The answer is in the data the assessments provide. By carefully analyzing the data, educators can take full advantage of each test event to determine student strengths and areas for improvement, develop targeted re-teaching plans, and drive instruction in the classroom.

We call this the Data-Driven Instructional Cycle and have found it to be the most efficient and consistent way to help students master college readiness standards and increase test scores.

What is the Data-Driven Instructional Cycle?

The Data-Driven Instructional Cycle has four phases:

  1. Students take an assessment, such as an ACT, an SAT, or another similar test. Any assessment that has been carefully mapped to standards, like the College Readiness Standards or the Common Core, will yield rich data.
  2. Use the data to create skill-based reports. Reporting is most powerful when it is aligned to one or more standard systems so that teachers can analyze student performance on specific skills.
  3. Analyze the data. There are a variety of factors to consider when reviewing the data:
    1. Has the skill been covered in class, or is it coming up on the curriculum map?
    2. If there are multiple standards assessing the same skill, which questions were easier and which were more challenging for students?
    3. Is there evidence for a common mistake or misconception in the data?
    4. Are there certain standards that, if prioritized, would have the greatest impact on student achievement?
  4. Implement a data-driven, instructional plan. At this point, enriched by the in-depth data analysis completed in step three, teachers are prepared to move from analysis to action in the classroom.

The Impact of the Data-Driven Instructional Cycle

The power of the Data-Driven Instructional Cycle is that the data and analysis collected in steps two and three above can influence weeks of instruction.

For instance, a math teacher may analyze data from an SAT practice test that has been mapped to both the SAT Domains and Dimensions and the ACT College and Career-Readiness Standards. Careful analysis of the data may highlight that students have mastered one-step proportion problems but struggle with multi-step proportion problems, especially in longer word problems. With this information in mind, the teacher can revisit the proportions unit in the curriculum map to both add time to reach this higher level of rigor and to adjust the materials to better match the higher level of rigor.

The teacher will do similar analysis and instructional planning in the weeks and months following the practice test. Students and teachers invest a few hours upfront to complete the assessment, but the investment pays off time and again as teachers deliver high-impact, data-driven instruction.

There is also a built-in feedback cycle. After teachers implement their data-driven, instructional plans, they will have the opportunity to see the impact of those lessons when students take their next assessment and the cycle begins again. In our above example, the math teacher will teach proportions to a high level of rigor, and analysis on the next SAT practice test will indicate whether students were able to transfer that mastery to the test and answer more rigorous proportions questions correctly.

The Data-Driven Instructional Cycle and your School

Academic Approach is uniquely qualified to support schools and teachers implementing a robust assessment system. Our reporting is flexible and aligned to Common Core, College Readiness Standards, SAT, and more, to best fit your school’s instructional needs.

Our proprietary, online reporting system has unique tools, including our Raw Score Gain Report, to help teachers to prioritize those standards that will have the greatest impact on student achievement.

Additionally, our professional development team is available to guide in-depth data analysis, working alongside your team to yield immediate results but also to build capacity in your team as they become experts in using data to drive instruction.

If you have any questions about the Data-Driven Instructional Cycle and how it can make a positively impact your instruction and your students, please reach out to us at the location nearest to you.

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