Category Archives: Data

State of the Humanities (End of Quarter 3)

Hey folks!

As we dive into the final Quarter of the year, it’s important that we take stock of the huge progress we have made, but also how much further we need to take our students while we still have time with them. Every quarter, I resort to the following information to help me define our cohort and student trends:

  • Classroom observations from me and your TLD Coach (aligned to Engagement with Rigorous Content and Culture of Achievement).
  • Student achievement data that you share with us.
  • Your responses on professional development exit forms.
  • Your First Eight Weeks and Mid-Year Survey responses.
  • Feedback from our Humanities Leaders.
  • Feedback from you at our Humanities Leader Summit and through our Quarterly PD Survey.
  • Anecdotal and qualitative data such as student work, responses in professional development experiences, and so on.
  • Much more!

These data points provide a fairly holistic picture of where our cohort is in regards to our Vision for the Humanities in Mississippi, specifically in relation to our four outcomes of academic achievement, critical consciousness, cultural competency, and student leadership. So what does this data tell us?

(Note: I’ve taken some of the language about these metrics from Ethan’s great post to the Math cohort – which, in turn, he credited to me! Anyway, if you haven’t taken a look at the Culture of Achievement and Engagement with Rigorous Content frameworks in a while, definitely take a quick look right now – some of the titles like “engaged and on-task,” “apathetic or unruly,” “passive and confused” and so on can actually be misnomers if they are read without the context of how the framework describes these bands).

Data Point #1: Sharing Data – Progress Known, %Benchmark Achieved, and Students

PK and %BA

  • What is Progress Known (PK)?

PK is basically a “Yes” or “No” answer to the question: “do we have reliable and complete data on where students stand in this classroom?” Since %BA (see below) cannot be calculated if we do not have this data, PK is incredibly important as a foundational piece of information.

  • What is %Benchmark Achieved (%BA)?

%BA is the percent of progress that students have made in relation to their quantitative goals for this time of year. This is calculated based on the data that you submit, and the strength of student performance that it represents. Basically, we would like students to be at 75% BA at this point in the year, since we are 3/4 of the way through the year.

  • How do you collect reliable and complete data?

The reliable and complete data comes from you teachers sharing it with your TLD Coach and/or Content Specialist. As long as you have data for student progress on ALL your Metrics , and you have shared a reliable assessment with us, then your students are PK!

  • What does this data tell us?

For the first time all year, during Quarter 3, we started to have a valid quantity of data to analyze! Now that over 80% of our classrooms are assessing students holistically and sharing that data, we can now start to really look at the progress our students are making. I thank ALL of you for prioritizing this in the past quarter, and ensuring that we have valid data to look at together and make decisions from. I believe a huge part of us seeing this result is that we are all committed to the value of our vision for the Humanities. That said, I also know that we also struggle with some of the rubric-rated data that we collect (DBQs, projects, performances, etc) both because it sometimes feels tough to assess, but also because it can seem subjective. I want to encourage us all to work together more to collaboratively norm on these and brainstorm the best ways to share that progress with our students. Sharing rubric data actually means that we are bringing subtlety and complexity to what it means to be a successful artist, musician, language speaker, etc. so this can be a key lever in us gathering our students’ investment in our contents. Ultimately, I think this is where we are struggling (and which is visible in our low %BA): getting students feeling urgent about the content! A big part of that will be in sharing our data with them more effectively.

Data Point #2: Culture of Achievement

CoA

  • What is Culture of Achievement (CoA)?

CoA is the quality of the classroom culture that your students enjoy as they are learning. Some people think immediately about “management” but CoA goes well beyond that: it’s the way in which your students actively maintain and foster a positive environment because of the way they care about their learning.

  • How do you collect data around CoA?

CoA is determined by the TLD Coach in collaboration with your thinking after an observation, using the Culture of Achievement Pathways rubric to inform our terminology. This then gets collected in our Program Tracker so we can analyze the data at different levels.

  • What does the CoA data tell us?

As you can see in the above, our students are definitely experiencing more positive classroom environments (including some Joyful and Urgent ones!), but by and large this is a priority in which our classrooms are stagnating. Like at the beginning of the quarter, we are still seeing well over half of our students in classroom environments that are in the lower end of the spectrum, and thus less conducive to learning. This is consistent with the year-long trend we have seen of few collaborative structures taking place in the daily lesson. Key to changing this will be our collaboration and sharing of best practices, as well as an increased sense of urgency and joy for our content as we head into the final 8 weeks of the school year.

Data Point #3: Engagement with Rigorous Content (ERC)

ERC

  • What is Engagement with Rigorous Content (ERC)?

ERC is the level of rigor at which students are engaging with the content. Some people think immediately about “difficulty” of the questions being asked by the teacher, but this goes well beyond that: it’s the depth and sophistication with which students are thinking about and working within the content, as well as the purpose with which they do so.

  • How do you collect data around ERC?

ERC is determined by the TLD Coach in collaboration with your thinking after an observation, using the Engagement with Rigorous Content rubric to inform our terminology. This then gets collected in our Program Tracker so we can analyze the data at different levels.

  • What does the ERC data tell us?

 Like with CoA, we are seeing some small and exciting gains in ERC, but also some discouraging signs of stagnation. In addition, it will be unsurprising to find out that the same classrooms that are on the bottom half of the spectrum in CoA are also often on the bottom half of the spectrum in ERC. At the end of the day, I believe that this is because we need to emphasize more student-centered learning, while also focusing on the purpose that our rigorous summatives can give us at this time in the year. 

How will we be supported based on these findings?

I have crafted three priorities for Quarter 4 based on these findings.  The priorities (grouped by student and teacher outcome) are as follows:

Priorities

Head over to the PD Page of our Professional Development website to see what sessions will be driving towards these priorities, and sign up for them!

For more detail on all of this, as well as a some crucial context, check out Q4 Humanities Priorities document.

So what are your thoughts? What resonates with you about this data, these priorities, and these upcoming experiences? What else do you see in the data and in your own classroom? Fire off below!

Great Unit Plans

It’s the first blog post of 2015! Time for some pump-up jams (OH NO! HAHAHA!!!), and to really dig in to the content with our students (seriously though, good message to that song). Did you know that it’s common teacher knowledge that the 3rd Quarter is the time when students experience the most academic growth all year? #un-researchedtruths #timetodropsomeknowledge

So, for our inaugural blast this year, I thought I would simply share some AWESOME Unit Plans that I have seen come out of each content over the past couple of years. Ultimately, Unit Planning is directly aligned with Priority 1 for this Quarter:

  • Students are… engaged in the content because it is rigorous, compelling, and focused around essential questions that bring to light social justice issues.

  • Because teachers are… Planning units and lessons that have strong visions of mastery, and that are propelled by essential questions and meaningful texts.

Indeed, this MUST be Priority 1 for us this quarter, since at the moment this is where our students stand in terms of Engagement with Rigorous Content:

Table

We simply must ensure that our students start pushing towards higher levels of Analysis and Application, and the best way to do so is to plan for it. More on this in the post below!

Here is what this post contains:

1. Why Unit Plans Rock

2. What Makes a Great Unit Plan

3. Examples of Great Unit Plans

And here we go!

  1. Why Unit Plans Rock

  • For Students: 
    • Keeping them engaged: Unit Plans are great for students because they will ensure that students are engaged, and know what is expected of them for the next 2-6 weeks! How will we be assessed? What projects will we do? What big questions are we exploring? All these questions are answered the moment you step into the classroom with a great UP.
    • Meeting their needs: Unit Plans not only allow you to plan for remediation and differentiation, they also allow you to plan for more engaging projects that will meet different learning styles, AND it will allow you to adapt to your students’ interests, transforming your Unit About Hammurabi’s Code to one about what the basic rules of a society should or shouldn’t be!
    • Making it relevant: A Unit Plan also gives you the space to make connections between what you are learning, and what is happening in the world today. With the emphasis on theme and deeper understanding, you have more opportunity to add depth to learning, while still ensuring you get to all the content students need to know!
    • Researched Results: Studies show that backwards planning (which results in a Unit Plan), has direct achievement results for students. In particular, this is because they allow the time and planning of “assignments requiring more challenging intellectual work”… For more, here is a quote from Newmann, Bryk, & Nagaoka (2001):

Students who received assignments requiring more challenging intellectual work also achieved greater than average gains on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills in reading and mathematics, and demonstrated higher performance in reading, mathematics, and writing on the Illinois Goals Assessment Program. Contrary to some expectations, we found high-quality assignments in some very disadvantaged Chicago classrooms and [found] that all students in these classes benefited from exposure to such instruction. We
conclude, therefore, [that] assignments calling for more authentic intellectual work actually improve student scores on conventional tests (p.29).

  • For You: 
  • Unit plans help you make the tough decisions about what to teach, and when to teach it! Diversions will be less attractive when you have clear goals in mind. This not only avoids going off-topic, it also will help you in recognizing that students need one piece of understanding before another – rather than running into that problem when it’s too late!
  • Unit Plans keep you on-pace. With a full calendar and a clear objective, it’s easier to adjust and be flexible, ensuring that the most important aspects of your unit get across, and your outcomes are always met!
  • Unit Plans increase your cognitive capacity.  Studies show that teachers are less effective when they don’t plan ahead because they are focused on both planning AND execution. That’s no good! We want to make sure you have energy as well as time to relax. The initial effort of a UP means you have more cognitive space and time to step back moving forward!

Pretty cool, huh? I bet you are feeling just as bewildered as this guy about how awesome UPs are!

2. What Makes a Great Unit Plan

There are a lot of things that make a great Unit Plan, but here are a few that I always look for, just to give you some headlines…

  • Engaging Essential Questions. You’ve probably heard enough of this by now, but I will say it again: Essential Questions can be genuinely engaging for students if introduced correctly in the classroom. For a great Unit Plan to be implemented in the classroom, you’ll want a variety of overarching and topical questions. In other words, you want to be asking both:
    • Overarching: What rules need to be in place for large groups of people to live in a society together?
    • Topical: What kind of society did the laws outlined in Hammurabi’s code generate? What were their implications?

The former captivates and engages students, while the latter focuses them in on the topic for the day or week! The interplay between “big picture” and “pieces of the puzzle” is what makes instruction effective!

  • Alignment to National and State Standards. Again, I imagine there are no surprises here, but we should always make sure that our students are getting what they SHOULD be getting. The best and only way to do that is to research what students are learning across our nation, as well as what they are required to learn in our state.
  • A Variety of Assessments. I think we often misunderstand assessments (and I will be writing a blog about them shortly) as exclusively pen-and-ink multiple choice or written assignments. That’s simply not the case! Assessments are happening ALL THE TIME in class – they are verbal, visual, and active. Indeed, the best units PLAN for these different kinds of assessments, including things like performance assessments (a speech or debate, a presentation, or a performance that shows understanding of the content).
  • A Daily Breakdown. Ultimately, all the teacher-facing benefits of a Unit Plan are for naught if they don’t help you breakdown your calendar and know what you are teaching, when.

Hopefully, you are still with me, and realizing – HEY! UPs are actually pretty decent!

3. Examples of Great Unit Plans

Simply put, the following are some GREAT Unit Plans I have happened upon or helped create in these past couple years. Check them out! Use them, modify them, or make them your inspiration!

If you have a great UP you want to share, please email it to Jacob or upload it to the Document Bucket for your content!

State of the Humanities (Quarter 2, 2014)

Hello Team Humanities!

As many of you know, at the end of every quarter Team Humanities takes a step-back to see how we have progressed in relation to our goals, and what we will need to do next in order to move further, faster, and with a greater orientation towards our teachers and students. Ultimately, all of this is in service of seeing how far we have gotten towards our Humanities vision: 

We believe that the Humanities are critical contents in the actualization of Social Justice and Equity in students’ lives. We thus move students towards Humanities Achievement, Leadership, Critical Consciousness, and Cultural Competence.

As such, we act with the knowledge that every Humanities classroom must aggressively pursue the dismantling of systems of oppression through the provision of rigorous Humanities content and Culturally Responsive Teaching.

As we wrap up our first semester, I thought it would be important for me to share with you all the data we have collected, and the NEW priorities we are forming for Quarter 3 as a result of our feedback and interpretations. For the sake of brevity and focus on what matters most, I have narrowed this data down to the information that is most directly relevant to students in our classrooms.

As you read over this, I would love for you to consider:

  1. Where do my classroom and my students stand in relation to this data?
  2. How can I act within the Humanities Team to improve our collective data?
  3. What experiences, thoughts, support, resources, or feedback can you share to help us interpret or take action in relation to the data we are seeing?
  4. What changes can we make, as a collective, to impact this data for the betterment of our students?

As always, feel free to comment below, or email/text/call Jacob with any questions, ideas, or feedback!

Wait, first, where does this data come from?

We end up collecting A LOT of information in order to make informed decisions with regards to what our next quarter should look like. That information comes from all of the following sources:

  • Student achievement data from your classrooms, which you share with us.
  • Your First Eight Weeks Survey responses
  • Data collected through classroom observations (Engagement with Rigorous Content, and Culture of Achievement) both from me and your TLD Coach
  • Your responses on Professional Development Exit Forms
  • Your responses to other surveys (such as the ones I send out at the end of every quarter)
  • Humanities Leader and TLD Coach feedback on other surveys
  • Anecdotal and qualitative evidence (student work that has been shared, other stories and celebrations emerging from classrooms)
  • Much more!

Data Point #1: Progress Known

  • What is Progress Known (PK) ? PK is basically a “Yes” or “No” answer to the question: “do we have reliable and complete data on where students stand in this classroom?”
  • How do you collect reliable and complete data? The reliable and complete data comes from you teachers sharing it with your TLD Coach and/or Content Specialist. As long as you have data for student progress on ALL your Metrics (and are not, for instance, missing DBQ Data even if you have Mastery Data), and you have shared a reliable assessment with us, then your students are PK!
Progress Known? Social Studies The Arts World Languages All Humanities
YES 67% 60% 71% 66%
NO 33% 40% 29% 34%
Progress Known by Humanities Content as of November 20th, 2014

Progress Known by Humanities Content as of November 20th, 2014

Data Point #2: Culture of Achievement

  • What is Culture of Achievement (CoA)? CoA is the quality of the classroom culture that your students enjoy as they are learning. Some people think immediately about “management” but this goes well beyond that: it’s the way in which your students actively maintain and foster a positive environment because of the way they care about their learning.
  • How do you collect data around CoA? CoA is determined by the TLD Coach in collaboration with your thinking after an observation, using the Culture of Achievement Pathways rubric to inform our terminology. This then gets collected in our Program Tracker so we can analyze the data at different levels.
Culture of Achievement Social Studies The Arts World Languages All Humanities
Destructive 0% 14% 7% 8%
Apathetic or unruly 33% 29% 21% 28%
Compliant and on-task 58% 21% 57% 45%
Interested/ hard-working 8% 36% 14% 20%

Culture of Achievement by Humanities Content as of November 20th, 2014

Data Point #3: Engagement with Rigorous Content

  • What is Engagement with Rigorous Content (ERC)? ERC is the level of rigor at which students are engaging with the content. Some people think immediately about “difficulty” of the questions being asked by the teacher, but this goes well beyond that: it’s the depth and sophistication with which students are thinking about and working within the content.
  • How do you collect data around ERC? ERC is determined by the TLD Coach in collaboration with your thinking after an observation, using the Engagement with Rigorous Content rubric to inform our terminology. This then gets collected in our Program Tracker so we can analyze the data at different levels.
Engagement with Rigorous Content Social Studies The Arts World Languages All Humanities
Not challenged; no learning 0% 14% 14% 10%
Passive or confused re: new content 25% 21% 7% 18%
Factual recall/procedural 42% 36% 71% 50%
Analysis/application/explaining 25% 29% 7% 20%
Evaluation/synthesis/creation 8% 0% 0% 3%
Rigor

Engagement with Rigorous Content by Humanities Content as of November 20th, 2014

Okay, so what next?

Well, A LOT IS COMING UP NEXT! Given a realistic look at the above data (and much more, including your suggestions), we have come up with the following priorities for us to look forward to. Again, take the time to consider: how are you and your students doing in relation to these priorities? What do you need to accomplish in order to push more towards them?

For more detail on the data presented here, our priorities, and what is coming next in the Humanities, check out our Quarter 3 Priorities at this link.

Priority 1:
  • Students are engaged in the content because it is rigorous, compelling, and focused around essential questions that bring to light social justice issues.
  • …Because teachers are planning units and lessons that have strong visions of mastery, and that are propelled by essential questions and meaningful texts.
Priority 2:
  • Students are “on the hook” for their learning because they are collectively, collaboratively, and fully owning the outcomes of the lesson.
  • … Because teachers are ensuring students are being given ownership of their own learning by facilitating strong collaborative structures around rigorous content.
Priority 3:
  • Students are Invested in their Humanities-content goals because they see their success as critical to their future leadership, and because they are aware of their progress.
  • …Because teachers are invested in their end-of-year goals and what they represent for students, and thus measuring and sharing progress towards goals with students and stakeholders.