Planning an effective data team meeting

By Chris Jarosh

“Weighing the pig doesn’t make it fatter,” the saying goes. It’s an evocative turn of phrase for teachers fatigued by burdensome tests that take time away from teaching and don’t seem to benefit students.

If the right test is administered in the right way, however, students students can benefit enormously from the greater insight their teachers gain from their results. One of the guiding principles of our STAR assessment programmes at Renaissance Learning is that they should be quick and easy to administer. The other is that they should directly inform planning and teaching.

That’s why we strongly recommend regular data team meetings as an essential part of the learning cycle. It will have implications for both planning and teaching. From my experience working closely with schools who use Accelerated Reader and Accelerated Maths, I have seen that the schools making the greatest gains in student progress are the ones where assessments are followed by effective data team meetings.

Assembling a data team

The data team is a small group of staff members dedicated to using assessment results to inform students’ learning. Because outcomes from meetings will affect planning and teaching, the ideal data team should be formed of at least one member of the senior leadership team, the person responsible for intervention, and the co-ordinator for additional programmes like Accelerated Reader and Accelerated Maths. You will probably also want to include the teachers whose students’ data you are reviewing.

It should meet at least as often as students are assessed, to discuss the results, but most schools will find that meeting as often as once a month will help with progress monitoring. Data for students on intervention will need to be scrutinised more frequently.

What should a data team focus on?

With so much data available, it is easy to get carried away with discussions and lose focus. The best way to keep your discussions on track and succinct is to set a few important questions in advance. For example, you might want to consider the following:

  1. Who is performing well?
  2. Who is underperforming?
  3. What have you noticed about the students you have previously identified as struggling?

What does an ‘outstanding’ data team meeting look like?

Every school will run data team meetings differently, and the best meetings will be those that meet the particular needs of your school. However, there are common characteristics of effective meetings that you will benefit from adopting.

  1. Sharing common goals
    If you have clearly stated and commonly understood goals, and the data meeting has a high profile in your school, you will find it easier to implement the next steps you discuss.
  2. Reviewing the impact of the next steps put in place following the previous meeting
    Your meetings give you a chance to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies you have put in place to address problems or stretch students.
  3. Breaking the data down in different ways to identify more than one solution
    It is always helpful to look for discrepancies between the results for different groups of students. Try comparing students in different year groups, those identified for intervention, those in receipt of Pupil Premium, etc. This will help you to pinpoint problems and direct interventions more precisely.
  4. Looking at STAR and AR/AM data together
    The new Reading Dashboard on Renaissance Place shows assessment data from STAR alongside reading practice data from AR on the same screen. If a student’s STAR scores are lower than expected, the data from AR will explain why and provide clues about the best next steps for that student. Printed reports for Accelerated Maths and STAR Maths can be analysed side-by-side in a similar way.
  5. Establishing next steps
    You should look to establish three or four next steps to put in place following your meeting. They will be implemented more effectively if a member of staff is given responsibility for implementing each one. You may wish to consider making your next steps ‘smart:’ specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

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