Sharing Data with Families

Article by Katie Currens

As the school year ends many teachers are actively preparing portfolios or summaries of individual growth for students to take home. This is a wonderful way to make sure the parents and guardians get their hands on the data you’ve been collecting throughout the year. However, the reality is that many of those acronyms and numbers mean nothing to families. It’s important that we work to ease frustration by providing a clearer understanding of student progress.

1. Know what your sharing and be prepared to break it down for parents. You never want to send raw scores or send a link to a score with no explanation. You’re the expert and parents are looking to you to help themt. Is 5 points growth good? Or should there have been more? It’s a natural inclination to see any growth as positive, but many families aren’t aware of the intervals and percentage of growth their student is expected meet to be on grade level.

2. Break down student data into specific content and skills so that parents have a better idea of understanding how to support their students. Rather than just giving an overall score for writing, explain what area they strong in and what skill they could work on (such as grammar or citing evidence from a text). Likewise, in math, many adults were not taught the same strategies as today’s students. So, send home additional resources or suggested websites where they can dig deeper and support their student without dismissing your hard work teaching those strategies. Don’t assume that they will know what specific skills need addressed.

3. Keep academic terms, acronyms, and other jargon to a minimum. We use that within the field, but we must remember many of our families do not have a background in education. While terms may be second nature to us we should never assume everyone knows and understands them. If you want to help your parents become “in the know” create a cheat sheet of terms and resources that you can provide them with. You can include this with your end of the year data to help them understand what all of that “stuff” means.

4. Keep your students updated about their data so they have a stronger understanding and can help talk through their progress. One way to support them is through age-appropriate data talks. If we collect this data and have meetings to develop interventions, then shouldn’t we also keep the students in the loop with what skill we are working on and why? You certainly don’t want to approach it as though there is a reason to be alarmed, but if you have meaningful, brief conversations with all students then you’ll establish a classroom culture focused both on strengths and growth areas. This will allow students to take more control of their learning and understand why we are doing certain activities. By having this classroom culture, students will be able to have more meaningful conversations with their parents regarding their academic performance.

One of the worst feelings as a parent is getting data that you have no clue what it means. Likewise, getting data at the end of the year that shows no growth for your student and having no prior knowledge or explanation from the teacher is going to create a lot of undue panic. This can often be avoided by being strategic about data discussions and how your share that information. We never want to push our students’ families away because they don’t feel like they understand. In fact, that is often a reason families will say they avoid volunteering in urban schools. They have been left with a feeling of being overwhelmed, not knowing how to help. Let’s break that cycle and empower our families to take control of their child’s education by eliminating their fear. After all, isn’t parental involvement one of the things we all strive for?

If you feel like you may have completely overwhelmed yourself with data and don’t know how to meaningfully break it all down at this point in the year, now is also a great time to make notes for how you want to organize your data next year. Don’t be too hard on yourself! You’ve worked hard to collect that data which shows you recognize the value it has in helping your students’ academic growth.

Make it a great summer!

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