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Data Drives Professional Development
Laura Cavender

Use Data to Drive Professional Development and Classroom Instruction

Laura Cavender, principal
Pillsbury Elementary

Minneapolis Public Schools

Collecting and analyzing data to prioritize teacher and student needs is integral both to providing purposeful professional development for staff and effective instruction for our students. Data is used by our instructional leadership team, professional learning communities (PLCs), collaborative grade level teams, and data teams -- and all are connected to our Standards of Effective Instruction (SOEI) teacher evaluation system and aligned to standards and benchmarks. It is essential that we learn and assist staff in understanding this process and their connections, so that students achieve at their highest level. The power of this process is immense.
The data process begins each summer with our instructional leadership team looking at multiple measures of qualitative, quantitative, disaggregated data related to student learning, teacher learning, demographics, perception, professional practices, and school processes. The team identifies trends in student achievement and teacher performance, including strengths as well as areas of growth. The areas of growth are prioritized and the greatest needs are discussed and chosen. These needs begin to shape our professional development long-range plan. Research-based strategies aligned to best practices are gathered, discussed, and chosen to create our plan for the following school year. Adjustments are made throughout the school year as needed, according to further data.
The purpose for our professional learning communities (PLCs) is to provide teachers the opportunity to work together to learn targeted strategies and information, complete data team cycles, and help make changes in teacher actions that affect student learning. Our PLCs meet weekly for 90 minutes. All licensed staff members participate. All strategies and information are based on prioritized needs and are research-based.  
During data team cycles, teachers by grade level disaggregate data, select a focus, create formative assessments, chart student data, analyze student data, and prioritize needs. They then set SMART goals, select common instructional strategies for each group of students, and determine the results indicators. Monitoring and evaluating is done throughout the year during PLCs. As goals are achieved, new SMART goals are chosen and the cycle is again completed. Discussion of the impact of teacher behaviors on student learning also is important.
Collaborative grade level teams use data as they plan for specific classroom instruction. Teachers meet weekly to create a collaborative lesson plan (CLP) sheet that provides specifics on the lesson objectives for each day of the week in the various subjects. It also provides vocabulary words that grade levels are focusing on, as well as the standards that are being covered. This CLP is disseminated to all teachers working with students during the school day, the after-school program, and the park program that many of our students attend. These teams also discuss data to inform grouping in reading and math, and grade-level specific concerns.
The Standards of Effective Instruction (SOEI), our teacher evaluation system, is comprised of a set of rubrics that illustrates accomplished teaching in each of four domains. The rubric has four descriptors for each domain that defines the levels of effectiveness and helps teachers better understand the development of their practice.  
  • Domain 1 includes Planning and Preparation.
  • Domain 2 addresses Classroom Environment.
  • Domain 3 looks at Classroom Instruction.
  • Domain 4 relates to Professional Responsibilities.  
The data derived from classroom observations and post-observation conferences is used to improve instruction in the classroom to support student achievement. This information also is used to adjust and refine our professional development. Each PLC session includes connecting what we have learned to the SOEI rubric. The rubric is posted at all PLCs and each session ends with teachers completing an exit slip on Post-It notes and placing them in the appropriate place on the SOEI rubric. This helps to clearly show the connection of our work, the data, and teacher evaluation.
The use of data in our instructional leadership team, professional development, data teams cycle, collaborative team planning, and their connection to the SOEI is fundamental as we strive to increase student achievement. Prioritizing student and staff needs based on the standards and data is essential as we learn to target instruction. The connection of these integral parts helps us to address the changes necessary to raise student achievement and close the achievement gap.

(Published in the MESPA Advocate, November 2012)

“The data derived from classroom observations and post-observation conferences is used to improve instruction in the classroom to support student achievement.”