4 Tips for Organizing All That Student Data

My first year teaching, I was moving 90 miles an hour all day long and my organizational skills suffered those first few weeks of back to school assessing!  I had assessment documents all over the place, I had no time to come up with a good system, and I had to look in 500 places before finding the piece of paper or spreadsheet I was looking for.

Sound familiar?

My OCD self won out after the first few weeks of school and I nailed down a system for keeping the data organized and easy to find and use. Take a peek at my favorite tips for recording data, and using that data to guide instruction (since that's the actual point, right???)

Tip #1: Go Digital

Digital data keeping is where it's at in my opinion.  Even when I do pencil/paper data recording, I always transfer it to my digital spreadsheet.

Why?  Because if it's on my Google drive, I can look at it at school, at home, on my phone, on my laptop, in my car, while I'm at PD... anywhere! :)

Most of the time, I keep my laptop right by me while I'm assessing kids.  For example, when I tested my kinders' rote counting, I would call them to my table, have them count with me and then just type in the number the counted to in my spreadsheet.  I put their score straight into my spreadsheet and skip the paper copy.  

If I absolutely can't have my laptop with me, I put the data in a paper sheet and add it in to the computer later.  

Tip #2: Keep the Data In One Place

Not much is more frustrating than having to flip through a bazillion spreadsheet pages to find the data you need for your administrators during PLC meetings or for your literacy coach when she runs down to your room to get a data point from you.

For years I had roughly a bazillion different sheets for approximately a bazillion different kinds of assessments I needed to give my kids.

Sound familiar?

The year I switched to having my data all in one place was a game changer for me!  

Now all of my data is in one Google Sheet on my Google Drive.  

So, why not just have several Google Sheets all in the same folder on my Google Drive?  I mean, I've definitely had to do that before when I had someone who needed me to fill out a specific sheet, but I MUCH prefer it all on one sheet.  

Having it all in one sheet means I just have one place to look for the data.  When I'm talking to someone about intervention on a kid, I have one line of data to look at instead of flipping through a bunch of spreadsheets.

Also, having it one sheet means I can easily see trends in kids.  I can easily see how lower PAST scores affect the nonsense word fluency scores for the same kid.  And that helps me make better data-driven decisions. 

Note: I do usually have a separate sheet for math and literacy.  I've actually done it both ways (altogether and separate) and both work well since we usually talk about intervention with one or the other.

Tip #3: Keep the Paper Copy

Yes, tips 1 and 2 were all about digital.  

But let's face it:  Many assessments, like the math one below, have pages that must be filled out during the assessment and aren't digital.  This is true for DIBELS, PAST, fact fluency and any student math assessments or writing prompts and rubrics.  

For these types of assessments, I fill out the paper assessment with the kids during the assessment just as I am directed, and then when I have the final score, I put that right into my laptop.  Then, I file that page into that students manilla folder that I keep on them for the entire year.  

Why keep the paper copy?  It's simple.  The paper trail.

Parents want to see the paper trail.  I use the kids assessment folders for parent teacher conferences.  There's nothing "extra" to assemble for conferences, I just pull out their folder and we go through it.  That way, in the spring, if parents forgot how far their kid has (or hasn't) come, I can just pull out both assessments and we can side-by-side compare.

In my early years, I stapled the relevant stuff for conferences together to go over with parents.  And inevitably I would understandably have questions from the parents and then I would have to go digging.

So, filing assessment pages into student folders as I go means I have the most up to date data ready to go for any parent or school person that comes to ask me about a kiddo.

The RTI Team needs to see the paper trail.  Having all of my paper copies all in one place helps me when we have last minute intervention meetings or a administrator comes in wanting to see data evidence on a kid.  It just makes sense to have it all in one spot.

I know it seems obvious, but if you're like me, sometimes it's a simple change that makes a HUGE difference.

Tip #4: Actually USE the Data

Okay, okay, another obvious one.  

But ya'll.  I've totally been guilty of racing to get #allthethings tested and recorded and then never look at it again.

Because, let's be honest, after all that assessing, I don't WANT to look at it again.  At least for a few weeks... :)
 
But I finally got to the place where I thought, "If I'm gonna have to collect it all, I might as well use it!"

I know you don't have much time.  I feel you.  That's why in my own classroom, I just use my digital data wall and pull groups on the spot.  For example, when I was teaching kinder last year, when I had a quiet moment during morning work, or if I finished a reading group early, or during snack time, I would look at my data wall, and call all of my kids back who couldn't count past 20, or 50, or 100, or wherever I wanted to focus.  

Those counting strugglers would come back to my table, we would spend 5 minutes practicing our rote counting and then they would return to their desk and I would highlight their data points so I knew I had met with them!  Simple as that.
****PHOTO*****

Other times, I called back all the kids on a specific PAST level and we would practice the phonemic skill they needed to move on to their next level.  Again 5-10 minutes max.  I met with all of my kids as I had a spare 5-10 minutes.  Once I had met with them all for that assessment area, I would check it off and move on to another data point.  This helped me keep track of which groups to pull next.

Often times, on Fridays, instead of pulling reading groups, I would pull data groups like I just described to just reinforce or reassess those skills.

This was an EASY, ready to go way to use my data immediately.  I literally finished assessing and then began pulling data groups during spare moments throughout the day.  It was purposeful, targeted, quick, but most of all, super effective!  Having all of the data in one place was a HUGE help for this too!

You can find the fully editable, Digital Data Wall I use in my classroom here.

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