Data walls are meant to be interactive – not just decoration. Teachers need to be involved in the process in order to fully claim ownership for the results and the strategies being implemented. Having set days to change the data are imperative as well as having data discussions planned. In my experience working with a data wall, I have learned the best thing you can do is make sure it’s a school-wide initiative. Tracking data and growth is an all-hands-on-deck process. I share a few tips for incorporating a data wall in this blog post. If you are interested, you can check out my Data Wall Product on TpT here. Feel free to message me with any questions! I have experienced the value of data walls and would love to help in any way I can.
A data wall is a great way to get conversations going in your school about literacy, student growth, and new strategies that are working. In my experience, they have created a sense of buy-in for literacy from all teachers and led to an all-hands-on-deck approach to literacy in the school building by engaging all teachers (including all contents and connections teachers) in tracking student data, participating in discussions, and learning new strategies they can easily implement in their own classes. It helped eliminate the intimidation of literacy for teachers who are not English Language Arts certified. It also made the sense of urgency for literacy in our school something that all teachers recognized and were ready to make a difference.
The data wall helped us, as a school, to come up with a shared vision for literacy along with an action plan to get there. We created a Literacy Block, and most teachers felt passionate about what they were teaching during this time. They understood the value in what they were doing, and because of ample professional learning opportunities, they were confident in the literacy strategies they were using.
When setting up your data wall, remember that it must be very confidential and placed somewhere in the school where students and parents never go or where you are able to easily cover the data if parents/students are in the room. You want it in a location where teachers can meet to discuss data and plan; this allows that data to be at their fingertips when needed.
There are many different ways you can design and use your school’s data wall. The administration at the first school I incorporated a data wall wanted all students in the school being tracked. With that in mind, I combined two bulletin boards together making one long one and did my grade levels (6-7-8) on the left with reading level bands on the top. I decided to make each grade level a different color, so they could easily be told apart. The administration at my new school want to track students reading below grade level on the data wall, so it is tracked on one regular-sized bulletin board.
Another vital thing to think about when setting up your data wall is if you want to track students by groups. For example, we want to track our RtI students, SPED, IEP, and Gifted students. We purchased Avery Round 1/4″ Diameter Labels, Assorted Colors from the Dollar Tree (may also be found at Staples and online) to color-code the data cards. These worked well because they were small enough to place in the corner of the card and helped us track the different groups of students.
Lastly, set it up in a way that will best work for your school based on size and number of students. My two recommendations are below. You could label the grades done the side and the proficiency level across the top, or vice versa. Both of these options work well, so you can decide based on the number of students you will have up there and whichever is more fitting to your needs.
Before you can push out your data wall, I highly recommend you work on getting teachers to buy-in to the why and the need for literacy in the school. In education, we know there are many hoops we must jump through to appease someone, whether it’s the state Department of Education, the local Board of Education, or the school’s administration. However, we do NOT want something as important as literacy to be deemed as a hoop. The future of our students majorly depends on schools being successful in helping them grow and achieve in reading and writing.
There needs to be a sense of urgency in your school for the need of literacy as a focus. I would recommend starting with a brief, but informative, presentation on what lexiles (or whatever reading level you use) are and where students should be. I would include the lexile ranges needed for a variety of careers to help drive home the point in where students need to be when they graduate. I would then dive into your school’s data broken down by grade level. Let the teachers see the overall averages of students reading below grade-level and the bubble students who are barely making it. Put a number to that percentage: “That means this many students out of this many are NOT reading on grade level.” Really emphasize what that means for that student.
Another key component to gaining teacher buy-in for literacy is to provide the teachers with simple strategies they can use in their classes. As mentioned in a previous blog post, non-ELA teachers can be very intimidated by the idea of “teaching” literacy. It is imperative that your school has a few select strategies in place that are easy to implement and provide training on these for teachers who are not confident in using them in their classroom. You want to make sure teachers know the strategies are to use WITH their content and not in addition to it.
However you decide to go about building buy-in in your school, the biggest key factor is creating that sense of urgency. Teachers chose this profession to make a difference in the lives of their students, and when they see the value in what they are doing for their students, they are going to do their best. Make literacy valued by all!
How It’s Used
When implementing the data wall, you want all teachers to have a set group of students they are tracking. It can be based on homeroom, divvied up based on an ELT or FLEX class, or however else you decide to split it up. These teachers will be responsible for tracking the progress of their students for each RI test (or whatever reading level test you use). Divide the cards up for the teachers and have them write down the first score on each other their student’s cards and place them in the level band they belong on the data wall.
I would think talk about the baseline data and create a plan to help the students grow. Plan or share the literacy strategies your school will use across the contents to help. My recommendations are PALS reading strategy, Reciprocal Teaching, and RACE/RAP/CSET for constructed responses. These research-based strategies allow students to dig deeper into the content and help improve their literacy skills.
After your next reading level test, have your teachers meet back in the room with the data wall. Have teachers update their students’ cards and move them to a new proficiency band if necessary. I would recommend highlighting the corner of the card if a student moves up to a higher level. This way you are able to track the students moving bands throughout the year. After students’ scores have been updated, discuss the data. Look for trends and for successes. Discuss what teachers feel is working and what is not, and determine how to make it work. Complete this process for each reading level test given throughout the year. Make sure data discussions are a vital part of the process. Share strategies and successes as much as possible and always pull in the growth shown school and grade-wide through looking at the percentages of students moving up to reading on grade-level.
Remember to celebrate successes throughout this entire process. Watch for the growth being shown across the school and emphasize the difference the teachers are making for their students. This is what it’s all about!
The Data Wall process should one that includes all teachers and support staff because you need to have one common school-wide goal to help students achieve higher reading levels. Through teacher buy-in and support, this process should be eye-opening. My favorite part about the data wall process was watching the teachers become cheerleaders for their students when they came in to update their students’ cards. “Yay! Go Joey! I knew you could do it!” “Oh, Caty, you were so close. We will get it next time!” “Wow, Jana, your score grew so much!”
I hope your data wall process is one that is as eye-opening and welcomed as mine has been. Please feel free to email me with any questions you may have. I’d love to help in any way I can. If you are interested, I have a Data Wall product that has the data cards, discussion questions, and some implementation directions.