With the demands of daily classroom instruction temporarily on hold, summer was an ideal time for teachers to expand their pedagogical skills and explore new concepts to meet the needs of their students. It was also an ideal time to relax on a beach. CASDA data experts Pam Roberge and Bill Haltermann presented “Summer Data Jam 2015” on August 12th, joining the wildly divergent worlds of data-driven instruction with inflatable palm trees, piñatas and beach balls. In doing so, they succeeded in imparting cutting-edge information to drive improvement in student achievement in an atmosphere that was welcoming, relaxed and fun.
Data Jam’s primary content focused on Common Core Power Indicators. A great deal of rhetoric surrounds the Common Core Learning Standards. Much of it is confusing, contradictory or sometimes inaccurate. Ms. Roberge and Mr. Haltermann are cutting through the noise. Haltermann explains, “When we think about Common Core, we tend to think about scores. Power Indicators attempt to measure Common Core Skills.” Targeting skills rather than scores focuses data analysis on developing students’ critical thinking abilities. This translates across grade levels and subject areas and is the foundation of sustained educational success.
The conference grew out of a pilot project in which seven school districts participated. A multi-grade test was administered to identify skill gaps that emerged as students progressed through grade levels. The data collected revealed correlations in incorrect answers with very specific skill deficits. Identifying these deficits allows educators to develop curriculum that will facilitate the development of these skills. Attendees who participated in the pilot project engaged in a round-table discussion in which they shared their experience utilizing Power Indicators and developing instructional strategies based on the results of the multi-grade assessment. This cross-district idea exchange provided an opportunity to collaborate, challenge existing practices and consider new ideas to meet the needs of students.
Reaction from educators in attendance was overwhelmingly positive. One stated that the Power Indicators concept enabled her to “fine-tune my focus and better meet the needs of my students.” Another enthused that “the ‘fun’ that was mixed in helped to reduce the anxiety around data.” Ms. Roberge and Mr. Haltermann’s balance of rigorous data analysis with more than a little bit of fun may not be the norm, but it is undeniably helpful in presenting powerful information and strategies that are capable significantly improving student outcomes.