Behind the Data
PVHS English Classes Find Value in CDT
Behind every piece of academic data is a student with a story about his or her educational experience at PV . On the next two pages , it is our intent to take you “ behind the data ” to show you how students are benefiting from the use of data to inform teaching and learning .
Perkiomen Valley High School student Brandon Service has always hated standardized tests , and if he ’ s being perfectly honest , he still does . But thanks to what he ’ s learned in teacher Kim Paulus ’ English classroom , he has a better understanding of the purpose they serve . That ’ s because Ms . Paulus has been using the CDT ( Classroom Diagnostic Tool ) to help students set goals for improvement .
“ I understand why [ standardized tests are ] taken , so you can see the data , but we never actually used it to help us . But now with these activities [ in the classroom ], it ’ s finally being used to help us ,” said Brandon .
The CDT is an online testing tool provided by the state that offers teachers the chance to see how their students are progressing toward state standards . Teachers can examine both individual and class data to identify students ’ strengths and areas of concern . The high school began piloting the use of the CDT in various classrooms in the 2012-13 school year under the leadership of Karen Gehman , Curriculum Coordinator for English / Language Arts . Ms . Paulus has been one of the earliest adopters of this method for using data to inform instruction and learning . Students in her class take the CDT several times a year . Every time they take the test , Ms . Paulus prepares evaluation sheets for students that tell them where they are doing well , and where they might want to focus their energy so they can improve .
Here ’ s an example of how the data might drive a student ’ s approach to homework : A student receives her evaluation sheet from Ms . Paulus and the sheet indicates that she didn ’ t score as highly with regard to her understanding of similes and metaphors . So as part of her weekly journal entry about the book she is reading , she will spend time in her journal providing examples of similes or metaphors that appear in the literature .
Students seem to appreciate this approach to learning , because it allows them to focus their energy on what needs improving , instead of what they already do well . In turn , they manage their time better and take control of their learning .
“ From what I saw from my test , it showed me my strengths and weaknesses , and something that I love about this idea is that I didn ’ t have to ... work on other skills that I already did really well on that my classmates were struggling with ,” said Tori Vernon . “ It was time management that really helped and it was my individual needs so it really helped me in that way .”
Tori also appreciates the test as being one that is strictly for her own personal benefit , and that it doesn ’ t count toward an overall class grade . This makes taking the test less stressful .
“ It ’ s not a scary test and I just love how calming it is knowing that you have a whole year to improve ,” said Tori .
Use of the CDT data has also led to a better understanding of why testing in general is important . Student Jahir Holmes said when he first began taking the CDT , he used to click through the answers without giving them much thought . But after seeing how his answers ( and the data derived from them ) could inform his learning , Jahir was more thoughtful in his responses .
“ Throughout the year I would actually pay more attention to it , because I noticed what the purpose was ,” he said . “ I learned how it was helping me so I was more serious about it .”
This “ buy-in ” from students has been important , according to Ms . Paulus . Sometimes there can be a disconnect between the standardized testing that occurs and the classroom , but Ms . Paulus has found that as she has explained and demonstrated how the CDT data can be used , students are more invested in taking the test and doing well .
“ If I ’ m able to use the data and help students understand where they are , they actually see value in it ,” she said .
In addition to the individualized data , Ms . Paulus has used the CDT to guide her instruction of the classroom as a whole . For example , data from one class indicated that students needed to develop their understanding of drama . So she divided the class into groups to study the play Othello . In their group work , students were asked to write scripts , use dramatic devices within their skits , and then explain those devices to the entire class after they had performed . One of the most positive outcomes she has noticed is that students now understand how much they can evolve academically over time .
“ This actually shows them that they are growing ,” she said . “ I hope the premise of [ CDTs ] always stays . I think there ’ s true value in it .”
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