Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Carefully Used Data Can Lead to Positive Change (#14inFeb)

It all started in a year when we really began to gather and analyze reading data about students. We weren't test-crazy, but we asked for a lot of data from teachers. Some at the school were none too keen on using data to make decisions. Some thought it was too impersonal and took the teacher out of the picture.

Anyway, part of the work was to create a data wall initially showing reading level (Fountas and Pinnell) for any student receiving regular education or special education reading support. For the most part, our models included in class support from tutors or special ed assistants and pull out services from the reading specialist or special education teacher. The data went up on the wall in two phases. First the students receiving regular ed support, later the special ed support.

Well, when I looked at the reading levels for the special education students, I was shocked. There were four of five students in the same special education pull-out group reading solidly on grade level. That's right, they were being pulled out and were reading on grade level!

When I sat with the special ed coordinator, and I asked why keep them in pull-out reading if they are reading on grade level? Were we educating these kids in the least restrictive environment?

We talked for a long time about what this means. We talked about each student and studied their IEPs. We talked about the individual stories that led to pull-out reading services. We strategized about how to work with parents who might be reluctant to sign an IEP that did not have pull-out reading.

Most excitingly, we talked about how we could have fewer pull-out sections and move more special ed teachers back into regular ed classrooms to co-teach or work with students during reader's workshop. This model was working well for several students, it was time to expand it. While planning for the next school year, we worked on including more students for both reading and math. We found ways to use our special ed teachers in the regular ed classrooms. We began to change services at IEP meetings. We made it work.

While we did not convince everyone in the building that careful use of data could be a good thing, we made progress. We made a positive change for several students.