Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Using Mastery Connect to Make Data-Driven Programming Decisions for PLMs

Using Mastery Connect to Make Data-Driven Programming Decisions for PLMs

As the first cycle of PLM comes to a close it is necessary, if we are being faithful to the original vision, to use data about students’ level of mastery.  In the past someone would have to look at multiple spreadsheets that contained data related to students’ performance on a variety of, at times, idiosyncratic assessments.  I say idiosyncratic because even if a team started out with the same intent, and maybe an agreement on the standards being addressed, there were often revisions that crucially altered the nature of the assessment from classroom to classroom.

Today as I sit down with the hopes of coaxing to the surface the oft-elusive snapshot of students’ mastery, I have tool that makes visible our renewed commitment to common assessment.  Mastery Connect allows a teacher/programmer to compare apples to apples, and know how good those apples are.  Because the CCSS are written in such a way that RI.8.2 is simply the older, more sophisticated, sibling of RI.7.2, we can safely bundle the two together and target the heart of the skill with the same instructional technique (RI.7.2, for those keeping score, is, Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.).

With a few clicks you can generate a grade-wide look at student mastery (see ‘Teacher Reports Overview’ for a step by step guide).  
What these reports show is the state of your grade’s mastery on whichever standards comprise your selected assessment.

Once you have surfaced the grade-wide needs it is time to drill down to determine the needs of the individual students within the larger grade-wide pattern.  I made a few false-starts when trying to facilitate this level of analysis, but with the help of our friendly neighborhood ed-tech-super-heroes at Teaching Matters I was able to try a method that seems to have some staying power.

I created a whole-grade tracker for the seventh and eighth grades.  These aren’t the type of instructional trackers that you use in your classroom wherein you add assessments and score them, rather think of it as a reporting warehouse.  These trackers provide me with the most up-to-date look at standards mastery on a student level.

This tracker will update with every addition of new data (including data entered as a result of assessments administered during PLM! Data indicated by the “dog-ear” in the upper left corner of the cell).

I identified three areas of need that were shared by both the 7th and 8th grade and was able to generate a list of students who needed support with those skills.  When I had done that I needed to prioritize the needs of the students.  As is often the case, students were weak in multiple areas, and therefore I needed to consult the Mastery Connect tool to see what percentage of assessment questions (tied to each specific standard) they were able to answer correctly.  The lower the percentage correct the higher the priority.  This data was cross-referenced with data that we received as a result of ELA state test analysis.

Students, in the end, were placed in a PLM group that was either their first, or second highest area of need.  The Mastery connect tool was leveraged in such a way that the most recent assessment data informed every step of the process.  Now, PLM represents, to borrow an economics prefix, the macro application of Mastery Connect.  The same process, in miniature, is highly doable for your individual class.  This is especially true when you consider that the assessment calendars have been set ahead of time and teachers are able to see if there are standards that are going to repeat from unit to unit (or assessment to assessment).  These power standards that show up often are central to building a strong understanding of a student’s progress towards mastery, and if Mastery Connect can accelerate our instructional interventions, then it is certainly worth exploring.

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