March 6

Data Walk!

The following post is written by Assistant Principal, @GraysonLawrence! He is paving the way in student professional development, called Student Academy!  #Exceptional job Mr. Lawrence!

“Data is not about adding more to your plate. Data is about making sure you have the right thing on your plate.” –Unknown

Growth-1Data can sometimes be a dreaded word as we discuss its relationship to teaching and learning. I must say, this year has been a fantastic year of looking at Data at WHS. Teachers are continually moving kids by creating action plans for their students and developing villages within the school to move students, or as we tend to say “move mountains.” This past Friday the faculty at WHS collaborated to discuss Data Walk Through WHS. We were excited to take pictures of Data displayed in our classrooms. We noticed that data is presented in many unique ways, but more importantly the central purpose is for growth.

IMG_0148Great discussions were cultivated from the mentor text used at the beginning of the chat. One quote that kept stopping us in our tracks was: “As long as we use assessments/data only as a means to rank schools and students, we will miss their most powerful benefits. We all agree that if we only look at data in such a way it can become frustrating. Should we be the only ones controlling and looking at this analysis? Who else can we coach in the process? Although we continually work to improve student data, another quote from our mentor text sparked more conversations. “ The largest untapped source of potential in any school is, undoubtedly, the students.” What better way to motivate student growth by simply taking time, just a little time, each day to discuss data with students, and charge them with the idea of self-monitoring for growth. We are in the very beginning stages of developing Student Academy with our students, and if proper collaboration in this process, great things can happen and even change the culture of monitoring student data in our school.

IMG_0171The purpose of Student Academy is for our students to do the following:

Student Professional Development

Student-engaged assessment

Students learn the language of standards

Students set academic goals

Students monitor progress

Students identify patterns of strengths and weakness

Students become self-advocates

Students access their own work with honesty and accuracy

This discussion is the begging of what will become future planning of how students can use their digital portfolios being created in Student Academy to be used as a central location for self-assessment and data monitoring in each class every day. We are excited to see this develop within our school culture so we continue moving mountains fostering in our students being as #exceptional as they can be.


November 15

Why, Why, Why: Metacognition Protocol

images-2Why?  Three simple letters packed with an educational punch.  When students can tell us why they think something, or why they believe something, teachers feel as though we have reached the educational summit!  Whether right or wrong, we can diagnose misconceptions or build upon current thinking.  For today’s Teacher Academy, we had 3 Learning Targets:



  • Identify the right drivers and the wrong drivers in our classrooms.
  • Identify the importance of soliciting sophisticated responses.
  • Create a short action plan to address student deficiencies.


The 5 Why Protocol was recently used at the Key Leaders Network through the Alabama Best Practices Center. This protocol basically takes you through a series of Why’s….5 of them to be exact. You first have to identify your “right drivers” and then the “wrong drivers.”  We used 3 aspects of our school culture as a review for this protocol:  Classroom Managers, Formative Assessment, and Learning Target.  The last “Why” question that is asked, is packed with core foundations of belief.  Here are our examples:


1.  Why are classroom managers the right drivers over classroom observations?

-If the pressure in on the students, they will have higher success rates in life.

-To have students more invested, means that they have more ownership, pride, and are more engaged in class.

-There is a direct correlation between engagement and student achievement…simple!

-It is important to integrate so we can better prepare them for their future job!



2.  Why are formative assessment strategies the right drivers over accountability?

-Tailoring Formative Assessment tailors our instruction.

-Without a foundation, you can’t build more knowledge and you do not want

misconceptions to build.  You cannot build a house without a foundation.

-Formative Assessment shows student achievement, then in turn data and scores increase.  Formative Assessment shows the teacher where to go next with that child.

-Formative assessment gives them ownership, accountability, engagement in the lesson, etc.


3.  Why are learning targets the right drivers over fragmented strategies?

-It is important to connect to real world objectives for clarity and guidance.

-Students have to buy in with the lesson in order to be invested.

-We increase the rigor in our classroom lessons and this increases lesson stamina.

-It is important for everyone to go down the same path (Lifelong learning – not the exact path…we differentiate)


We also discussed the importance of using a protocol or having a system in place for student questioning and the answers we accept as teachers.  We must solicit educational responses that are of grade level quality, and beyond, not answers that are quick or sloppy.  Many questions on our summative Assessments, the ACT Aspire, require that students answer questions using grade level sophistication!  Thank you Anna Jones for your inspiration and aha moment on this issue!


We had a great day of learning and Action Plan development! You can find more about the 5 Why Protocol on the National School Reform Website:


September 13

Data…the Dreaded “D” Word

Data…the dreaded “D” word.  Why does it make teachers, students, and stakeholders shudder so much?  Data doesn’t lie?  True, but what does data tell us about our students as a person?  When we as educators begin to analyze data, we learn more about our students.  But what do we do with that information?  Do we share this information with the students?  How can students truly become more advanced by knowing data about themselves?  Do we include others on our accountability quest for achievement?

The summer was filled with time of reflection and introspection into many of these questions.  My assistant principal, @GraysonLawrence, and I met to discuss these questions and to reflect this summer on our practices as first year Principal and Assistant Principal.  The consensus was clear, something different needed to be done on our part, to lead our school into a diverse data driven culture.  Our developed vision is for all faculty AND students to be aware of the data and have an active role in the quest for achievement. After thoughtful research, we aligned our philosophy with that from the research of How Teachers Can Turn Data into Action by Daniel R. Venables. This book addressed many of our short comings as first year administrators:

  1.  We have had a two hour data meeting…Now What?
  2. We have identified student weaknesses…Now What?

We have aligned our new and improved Data Meetings much as Daniel Venables suggests. We are slowing down the process, leaving more time for teachers to research and develop an action plan, all while leaving behind “knee jerk reactions” to determining how to fill in an achievement gap.  

Friday was our first meeting!  It was short, sweet, and to the point!  Teachers met to analyze beginning of the year test data using Global Scholar for grades 9-12 and Star 360 for grades 5-8.  We have where students fall into our data continuum and what gaps each student has in that continuum. Teachers are now tasked on assembling their “village” in our school culture and giving each “village” member a specific task.  Our next meeting, we will be discussing each teachers village and the expectations of each member.  

I highly suggest this book to anyone looking to reshape how data is assessed, analyzed, and used to drive instruction in your school! 

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November 24

Diagnosing Misconceptions and Closing Gaps

This blog entry was written by our Special Education Department Chair, Keri Camp.  She paved the way, along with Lead Teachers Jessica Mathis and Paige Brown, in guiding teachers to diagnose student misconceptions in order to close gaps in learning!


The focus of the Teacher Academy conducted on November 21, 2014, was RtI/Special Education and the students who receive those services.  Teachers were given a prerequisite assignment.  They were asked to go through their student rosters and focus on students receiving these services.  Then, each teacher was to think of their students in an individual capacity and diagnose the misconceptions that are holding the student back.  They were to determine these misconceptions based on their anecdotal notes from small group as well as their observations of the students in their classrooms.


To start off the meeting, teachers were given names of the students they teach receiving special education services.  An importance was placed on addressing a common misconception.  Just because a student receives special education services does not mean that he/she would be placed in the highest and most intensive tier when thinking of services from an RtI standpoint.  The teachers were asked to place these students in a tier without taking into account their special education placement and then to explain the selected tier. This brought about some great discussions on actual ability levels versus perceived ability levels of students receiving special education services.

After this opening activity was completed, the focus was placed on student misconceptions and how to address them in the classroom.  Students were brought up individually and their teachers were able to discuss where they felt each student has a misconception.  Some of the most common misconceptions recognized included reading and listening comprehension, attendance/truancy issues, lack of confidence, disruptive classroom behaviors, and below grade level reading skills.  As a group, the participants shared what was or had been helpful when trying to reach the student.  This data was collected, compiled, and shared with teachers through Google Docs as well as through email.  By sharing the information, our faculty can work together to help our students fix their misconceptions and close the gaps in learning.

October 8

What is Radar?


What is radar?  Radar is a term that we use at Winterboro High School  to keep a critical laser focused lens on students who are in danger of not meeting expectations.  During our Data Meetings today, we identified those students who need Radar, or our extra interventions.  We looked at high stakes test data (ACT Aspire, ACT, etc) as well as classroom anecdotal notes kept during small group instruction to content specific grades taken on a students comprehensive report card.
Teachers are the experts when it comes to problem diagnosis.   Due to our integration of small group instruction, teachers know their students better than I have ever witnessed.  Teachers are able to diagnose student deficiencies and are able to come up with an immediate plan of action.  They are also able to share their findings with their colleagues and share best practices on how to combat these deficiencies so as to attend to the whole child.
After our data meeting, teachers are tasked implementing a plan of action in place and keeping record of student progress.
So…….Why do teachers need a Radar?  As teachers, we must identify problems specifically in order to fine tune our instruction to meet the needs of each student in our classroom.
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