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The "Wall"
Sean Ruggles
Thursday, November 06, 2014

Data Driven Decisions - TLI and the Assessment Wall

Goza Middle School Principal Angela Garner explains the arrangement of color coded cards on "The Wall" as they relate to student test scores.

What happens after the test ends, the pencils are down and the students breathe a sigh of relief? For students in Arkadelphia Public Schools, the end of a TLI test marks the beginning of a comprehensive examination of every test question and every test answer.

Do you ever wonder where test result data goes after it is delivered to schools? How is that data used? Does it impact the way teachers teach and classrooms are operated? Or does it sit on a shelf or in a closet? In Arkadelphia Public Schools, that data becomes the driving force behind almost every instructional decision, guiding teachers to adjust their classrooms to fit the needs of every student.

Every year for The Learning Institute tests’, the district invests a lot of resources, the staff spends a lot of time organizing, and teachers spend a lot of time preparing the students, who spend a lot of time testing. This produces a lot of valuable information that teachers can use to determine what is working and what is not. TLI testing dates average twice a month from September to April, so a school with more than 450 students, such as Goza Middle School, is analyzing about 7,200 individual test results in a school year. How does a school manage so much information?

Enter “The Wall.”

“The Wall” is the instructional facilitator’s war room. This is where test data becomes a visual aid and the results are tracked test-to-test and year-to-year for every single student in both math and literacy. Trends in individual student, and overall school, performance are easily appreciated once the color coded cards, which show a combination of scores and demographic information, are arranged on white boards on the walls of the instructional facilitator’s room. TLI test are administered multiple times a month throughout the school year and the trends in progress can be seen just days after the test is given. A room is set aside on each campus in the district to house the assessment wall. Access to the room is restricted to faculty and staff since the information on display is confidential.

“The cards are placed to show the most current round of scores,” GMS’s instructional facilitator Joan Crowder said. “Every time the students test and the results come back, the cards are rearranged.”

The APSD September Instructional Leadership Team meeting was held on GMS’s campus and led by school Principal Angela Garner. School principals and instructional facilitators were joined by members of the administration at the meeting to share ideas about increasing student achievement and utilizing test data to provide unique student guidance. Garner and Crowder’s presentation explained the ways their TLI data becomes a critical role in GMS’s classrooms.

“This (the assessment wall) shows the facts, the numbers,” Garner said. “There’s not any getting around it. The teachers meet in here and look at where their students are and they are able to see the results for themselves. This allows us to translate test data into individual student success. We see where we might need to push a student harder or provide an intervention to get one on the right track. The teachers that buy-in see positive results.”

District-wide, TLI data keeps students, as well as faculty, on track to reach their greatest potential.

“The information we get from TLI interim assessments and the data walls being used on each campus allow our teachers and principals to make very specific, targeted instructional decisions based on the needs of individual students,” APSD Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jeanette Turner said. “We strongly believe in the power of data-driven decision making.”

Because of the focus on student-specific results, school faculty can tell what kind of misconceptions a student may have based on the wrong answer choices they make on a TLI test. For example, if a student adds “47 + 15” and incorrectly selects “52” as the answer and that student is consistently making the same mistake, then it can be assumed the student understands the concept of addition, but he or she is forgetting to “carry” or regroup. The teacher would then work with that student individually to correct that specific misconception instead of unnecessarily spending valuable class time re-teaching multi-digit addition to the entire class.

The end goal is student success. TLI tests and “The Wall” are another set of tools in the educator’s quiver.

“With these tests, practice is harder than the game,” Garner said. “Often students will take the state (Benchmark) test, after testing with TLI throughout the year, and say that the state test was easy.”

Arkadelphia Public Schools serves more than 2,000 students in Clark County, Arkansas, ranging from 6-weeks-old through college- and career-readiness - and is home of the Arkadelphia Promise.

APS News

(originally published Sep, 2012)