Numerical value: How meaningful data can improve student achievement

As a math major, I see the beauty in numbers, and, as a teacher, I see the beauty of children. But, as an assistant principal, I see how numbers can paint an illuminating picture for children and how that picture can make all the difference in the world.

I was asked to be the 11th grade administrator three days before school started. With not much time to prepare and armed with only a yearbook and discipline records, I formulated a plan. I pinpointed the twelve students with the biggest discipline records and memorized their schedules and faces. My plan was to go to each of their classes every period for the first week of school.

First period. First day. I walked into a 10th grade English class and a student shouted out to me. He was an 11th grader, but he wasn’t on my list. I found his smile to be charming, his personality to be engaging, and his unknown story to be intriguing. Before the next period started, I spent two minutes in TalentEd’s student assessment and analytics system to see what I could learn. With three quick clicks, I learned:

  1. He had failed 8 of his 11 classes.
  2. His attendance was adequate at best.
  3. His discipline record was clean.

The bell rang at that point and I stepped out in the hall to tell students to stop running, pull up their pants, and take their hats off their heads. Next thing I knew, this student was standing next to me, telling the other students to take their hats off too. I learned a few more things in the hall:

  1. He liked to run.
  2. He was never eligible for track.

I sent him off to second period and decided I needed to learn more about him from TalentEds’ student assessment and analytics system.

I clicked into his high stakes assessments and found that he had passed all of his high school assessments on the first try (even though he had failed most of the classes). Looking back at middle school, he had failed nearly every assessment he took. Looking all the way back to elementary school, his assessment results shined a bright blue, which meant he was advanced in both math and reading.

I ran into him at lunch and asked, “What’s your story, double blue?” He looked perplexed as I explained the data I had just seen about him. He tells me it is quite a story and later that week he chooses to share it with me. We all know students with this story: death of a parent, incarceration of a parent accompanied by the signing away of parental rights, and death of both his grandparent guardians, leaving him a ward of the state. He went on to say that the last words his grandfather told him were: “Don’t get in trouble, and go to college.” He says he hasn’t gotten a referral since middle school, but he didn’t know what to do to get to college.

We agreed to work together. He assigned himself so many after school detentions in my office, I considered getting his name put on the sign on my door. He would ask if I would put him in In School Suspension so he could get work done. But, three months and countless hours later, he was eligible for the track team and he earned 3rd place in states in the triple jump that spring. And a year later, he was accepted into a four-year college.

I tell you this story because, with the power and insight that TalentEd provides, I quickly learned about one student with great potential who was flying under the radar. Prior to this, it would have required digging through multiple platforms, paper files, and “student pink cards” to access all of that data and enable us to give this young man the support he needed. What TalentEd gave me was the ability to have quick access to organized and meaningful information which I could then turn into actionable knowledge. A quick conversation in a busy classroom was turned into a powerful story that made a difference in the life of a child – and mine as well.

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