One of the best ways to see data cross laterally is through the use of a data wall. I started using data walls to have a visual of how my students were moving academically and behaviorally. The data wall shows how students are moving quarterly, natural student- grouping based on skills, and students who need may need to enter into RTI instruction. This great tool then hangs in a confidential place, and is referred to as I plan instruction, make groups, choose who needs double doses of instruction, and even as a tool to prepare for parent-teacher conferences.
Creating a Data Wall
The data walls that I use are created with large pieces of chart paper and sticky notes. To begin, I divide my chart paper into a 4 x 4 grid. I choose to do a 4 x 4 grid because our school tests 3 times a year, and we have 3 possible levels for student achievement (at, approaching, and below grade level). A 4 x 4 grid allows me to capture all of these variables, and gives me space to add labels to my matrix so that I can place my students appropriately. If I was going to use trimesters with 4 benchmarks, I would use a 4x5 matrix. Then, I use the bottom row of boxes to label each testing season. I skip the first one, because that is where I put the subject that the data wall is for. After I have completed this, I then write my benchmarks moving down from the first column. I choose to color code my benchmarks based on RTI, meets and exceeds are green, below is yellow, and unsatisfactory is red. I also use a blue to signify what the above grade level would be, because we expect a year's growth for everyone, regardless of where they come in at.
After I have made my walls, I then gather my materials to begin to add student data. I love staying within the color coordination of RTI because then I can easily spot who my tier 1, tier 2, and tier 3 kids are. I order red, yellow and green Post-It notes for this reason. This year, we have had a hard time finding the red colored sticky notes and plan on using regular yellow sticky notes with color coordinated markers to write the student data. After I collect the data for my students, I then write out a sticky note for each child. I like to put their name at the stop of the sticky, a photo of the student on the left side of the sticky, and any notes that are important to the data wall about the student. For example, I could have a tier 1 student on the DRA, who might be on the bubble for comprehension. This is a note that I would put on the sticky note. For students who are on yellow sticky notes or red sticky notes, I will also add the date that they were progress monitored. This adds a level of accountability. I can easily see who I need to check in with. The student sticky note houses a growing body of evidence of progress monitoring, interventions, and any other information that may impact the growth and development of a student.
This process is repeated at the beginning of every testing season. I do not like to move student sticky notes from one testing window to another because I like to see how students are moving. This is a great way to catch a student who drops, or a student who stays stagnate. It is also a great way to catch a child who suddenly grows, monitor interventions, and really make decisions to impact student learning.
Grade Level Walls
This year, our entire team is going to be using the data wall. We wanted to share the wall for several reasons. It allows us to see any grade level trend throughout the year that are impacting all of our kids. It allows us to see natural groupings within classes so that if we want to share kids, we can easily identify how kids can be grouped. The down side to sharing a data wall is finding a way to be able to identify each classroom at a glance also. To problem solve this, I decided to add a colored dot that coordinated to each teacher at the top of each sticky note. Now we can easily see trends not only within our classroom, but within our grade level while still being able to identify our own kids.
Although we love sharing our data together as a team, it does take a certain level of trust as a team to have our data out there. A team data wall is not an opportunity to decide who is a better teacher or which teacher is lacking at something. The goal of the data wall is to move students forward. The sole purpose of the color dots is merely to be able to keep track of our own kids.
Data can be such an important and purposeful tool. Student data allows us to pinpoint where students are lacking a skill so that we can move them forward quickly and best utilize our time in the classroom. I love my data walls and it is one tool that I truly utilize to plan and guide my instruction.