Doors or Data? Thoughts on Data-Informed Instruction

Doors or Data? Thoughts on Data-Informed Instruction


I recently read James Clear’s Atomic Habits. One of his suggestions for building new habits is “habit stacking,” in which you layer the new habit on top of an old habit. One example of how I have implemented this is: after I turn off the TV after our nightly Netflix, I fold the blanket and put the pillows back in place on the sofa. The other habit stack I am attempting to implement is much more relevant to MTS. After I am packed and ready to go to school and open car doors on Wednesday, I stay at the kitchen counter, open a Google Doc, and write something. Again, I am writing something for the community this week, a brief window into the ERB data analysis happening here at MTS. Today, I am choosing data (analyzing and then writing about it) over doors. The habit stacking worked.

At the State of the School in October, I presented one analysis of our ERB data from the 2022-23 school year. That year, like this year, our students scored above the “independent school norm” on nearly every test. A new ERB-created data analysis highlighted that our ERB scores were consistent with those of other independent schools on 45% of the tests and higher than the independent school norm on 55% of tests. MTS grade-level charts have lots of green (above the norm), some grey (at the norm), and not a single red bar in the entire report. Once again, this year, MTS students outperformed other independent school students, and the amount by which we did increased as well.

It is also interesting to note that our students' highest skills were in the areas of Writing Concepts and Skills (understanding of the components of effective written composition) and Mathematics (conceptual understanding of mathematics, application of mathematical knowledge to solve problems, and the ability to compute or estimate solutions). With those skills, our students will be writing blog posts like this that combine the written word with data analysis in no time. If AI isn’t going to take my job, MTS students will!

For those keen State of the School attendees, you may recall my in-depth exploration of one area for improvement: Writing Mechanics. As promised, our teachers, particularly our 4th and 5th grade teachers, dedicated themselves to enhancing these skills throughout the year. The results are tangible. Our students have made a significant leap, from below the independent school norm to above, a 7.5% swing in the positive direction. This remarkable improvement is evident in other data analyses, which show that our current 4th and 5th graders have shown their most significant year-over-year increases in Writing Mechanics. Data-informed instruction and the new data reflect the impact of that instruction.

Data-informed instruction happens regularly throughout the year at MTS as teachers meet in grade-level and department teams. It does not take my analysis and a State of the School presentation to impact the program; our teachers and Division Heads do this regularly. I have fun, though, diving into the data for State of the School and sharing the results in moments like this.

Another lesson from Atomic Habits is having an accountability partner who keeps you honest about your new habit. If you see me opening car doors on Wednesday, I promise there was a reason I had to be on campus, AND I plan to write on Friday mornings those weeks. Finally, don’t worry; I will not flood your Parent Squares with long weekly blog posts. Plenty of writing will be for other purposes. Now, I need to figure out how to get my kids to fold the blankets and rearrange the pillows. I have yet to figure out an effective Atomic Habit technique for that!

Note Bene

Individual ERB reports will be sent home after Spring Break. I encourage you to attend (or watch later) the parent education workshop on understanding ERB scores on April 18 at 12. As long as my good habits remain, I will likely write a blog post on that topic as well.


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