Thursday, February 14, 2013

LADDER: Using Data to Impact Instruction

I admit it; I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to numbers and graphs.  So the first time I heard the term “data literacy” my ears perked up.  I thought to myself, “I would love to become data literate!” As a teacher I struggled with ways to assess my students fairly.  I wanted to give them the opportunity to show me what they knew in ways that were appropriate for their level of English proficiency.  Now as a teacher trainer I am often asked about best practices in assessing ELLs.  I have witnessed a growing desire among educators to find ways to effectively use their student data.  As educators we need to continually ask ourselves:
  • What does this assessment measure?
  • What am I going to do with the information I receive from it? 
When I mention these two key questions in a workshop, educators often confess that they don’t quite know what to do with their ACCESS for ELLs data. They know that it assesses English language proficiency across the five ELD standards.  They also know what their state education agency has determined as entry and exit scores based on ACCESS. Some educators are even aware of the various scores available (for more on score reports, click here).   At the district level, teachers realize that programmatic decisions are often made using student data.  But how can we effectively use ACCESS for ELLs data to inform our instructional practices?

While the answer to this question can’t possibly be contained in a single blog post, I do want to share with you today a new professional development opportunity from WIDA.  It is called LADDER for Language Learners.  It is a 12-18 month program that trains a team of educators from the same school. In a process similar to professional learning communities (PLC), the school team members learn how to interpret data, identify areas for improvement, formulate and ultimately implement an ELL action plan guided by WIDA facilitators and a LADDER coach. Typically a district ELL specialist serves as the team’s LADDER coach.  Along the way, WIDA facilitators train, support and guide the coaches and team members through on-site visits and regular monthly phone calls. 
As is the case with many professional development initiatives, LADDER is most effective when the team members represent various stakeholder groups.  That is, some of the team members should be general education teachers, content teachers and ESL/bilingual teachers.
As I read a recent article about LADDER, I was struck by comments that two participants made.  Catherine Fox from Rhode Island found herself developing a new leadership style because “One thing I took away from the coach training I went through was that my ideas about what was right or what the district needed to do were not as important as getting the team to come together and find answers as a group. I learned to be a better asker of questions, because I found that the heart of good coaching is asking the right questions. Being able to get a good conversation going was so important in getting teacher buy-in and in moving the team to work cohesively and find instructional practices that worked best for them.” LADDER equipped Catherine with the skills she needed to lead her team in a new and different way. 

In Illinois, Debra Holland discovered innovative ways to use the ACCESS data from her building. Debra’s team “determined [that] our K-3 speaking scores could be higher, and that’s what we chose to target.  So we looked at ways to get our students to speak more in the classroom, and discovered through our observations that our teachers were talking too much. What they needed to do was back off and let the kids talk, so the students could become more comfortable talking in English.”

Interested in learning more about LADDER?  Visit their website for more information and registration information. 

Written by: Tammy King

Image: Courtesy of Harvard LADDER team

No comments:

Post a Comment