'It pushes me to do my best': Students use charts to track their own growth

News-DemocratDecember 14, 2013 

— Second-grader Kiera Williams colored all 10 rectangles on a bar graph purple to indicate she got 100 percent on a recent assessment for reading at Dunbar Elementary School.

Teacher Devon Bruce asked Kiera and her classmates to reflect on their score and why they did well or not. Kiera wrote that her score "went up," because she "practiced that story at home."

Dunbar Principal Carlynda Coleman wanted students to track their own data for math and reading to take more ownership of their education and encourage them to do better in school.

"We are working on being a more data-driven school, because that's the district's mission," she said. Dunbar Elementary is in East St. Louis School District 189.

Each Dunbar student in grades first through fifth have a data folder that they keep at school. As teachers administer the weekly/bi-weekly assessments, students chart their scores and set goals based on these scores.

"These folders not only allow students to take ownership in their learning process, but have gotten students more competitive in their work and give students an idea of the skills they have mastered, and those in which they need more support," said Coleman, who is in her first year as principal at Dunbar.

In Jerry Pruett's fifth-grade math class, the students color-code their data charts. Red is for scores 0-50; yellow is for scores 60-70; and green is for scores 80-100.

"What color do you want to get?" Pruett asked his class. "Green," his class responded.

"What color do you want to stay on?" he asked. "Green," his class said in unison.

Fifth-grader Zsanique Sanders, 11, grabbed the green crayon and colored her bar graph up to 80 percent -- her score on the latest math assessment on fractions.

"This graph is to help us know where we are and what we need help with," Zsanique said. "It pushes me to do my best."

"A lot of you made some progress," Pruett told the class. "All that hard work we have been doing with fractions shows up right here."

Students tracking their own data "works," he said. "It drives them to do better. It's a really neat way for them to challenge themselves."

Second-grader Mekhi Campbell, 7, said he enjoys charting his data. "It's helping me learn and understand stuff," he said.

Parent Chastidy Wilson of East St. Louis said tracking data has helped her son, who's in the fourth grade, learn his strengths and weaknesses.

"It helps him see his progress where he's advanced in a subject and what he needs improvement in," she said.

The data folders also help the teachers gauge what they need to work on more with students and what topics may not require any more attention. "It gives me an overall view of each individual skill they need to work on," Pruett said of his students.

Coleman isn't concerned about student privacy. "We really haven't had that concern," she said. "It's just like passing out the tests."

Overall, the school's data initiative is making the student's more competitive, according to Coleman. "It's turning into a competition, and I like it," she said.

Coleman hopes the fifth-graders will continue to track their own data when they attend middle school next school year.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

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