Data-keeping for Success

Robyn Harris, Ed.S, 2018 Alaska Secondary School Principal of the Year

Behavior in the classroom has significantly increased over the years.  In a recent poll by Primary Sources: America’s teachers on the Teaching Profession, teachers stated that increased levels of behavior issues have been seen across all grade levels.  This behavior can interfere with teaching in the classroom. When teachers are tasked in having multiple students in their classrooms with behaviors, it can be difficult to teach.  

As a principal of an alternative school serving students exhibiting such profound behaviors, and where their neighborhood school is not their least restrictive environment, I am very familiar with behavior, interventions, and documentation helping students progress positively. 

Four years ago, our staff began to implement a comprehensive school wide Positive Behavior Intervention and Support system.  To create an effective system, we needed a comprehensive documentation structure to successfully move forward in our implementation. Our team worked tirelessly and created a system that would capture daily behavior data, academic data, check in and check out data, intervention data, and even breaks and hot pass data for all students.  This information has certainly been tweaked over the years to better serve our students and staff, however, it is information that is necessary to offer to parents and students so we can accurately see and show how students are progressing. 

Why we need a data system

Data is an integral part of any administrator and teacher’s life in and out of the classroom.  From academic to behavior data and beyond, this information can only help to create experiences for students to better learn and understand their educational needs and more.  Data is necessary in education.  Accurate data helps educators to determine needs and help students to succeed. Our database was a necessary creation to show those at the neighborhood schools, parents, and students how well they were doing or what areas students needed to improve upon to meet the requirements to attend the neighborhood school. 

With PBIS at the forefront of implementation and the staff needing a way to track successes and needs, Whaley School needed a comprehensive database that housed information for administration, teachers, students and parents.  This information could then be shared with all stakeholders to accurately inform.  Students would be able to learn about their accomplishments and deficits in academics and behavior and teachers and staff would be able to determine direct needs for students each day.

How it was and continues to be developed 

We started the database documenting behavior goals every period of every day, our academic goals and objectives once a week, and recorded interventions each time they occurred. As our PBIS was implemented, we could see changes that needed to be made.  We slowly added engagement data, showing the positives that our students exhibited by taking data on the times when students were engaged in the learning.  Next, we added our check in and check out page on the database.  This system helped to center students when they arrived at school and then again when they were departing.  Some of our students needed an hourly check in and check out for success, and we were able to accommodate and keep track of that data, as well. 

How it benefits students and staff

Our data keeping system helps our students in various ways.  Students are able to see their progress, as well as see what areas they need to work on both academically and behaviorally.  Case Managers for students are able to show students their goals and objectives they are working toward, as well as track their own interventions.  Students have a voice in their own academic and behavior progress which is key in every student’s success.

Staff benefit from this data system by having multiple data points at their finger tips when they go to write new plans for students.  It’s also very key information when students are transitioning to their least restrictive environment; we can show staff from other schools important data points to support a change in placement for the student.   

What data is gathered and why

As stated earlier, we gather multiple data points for students on a fairly frequent basis.  We collect behavior data on a student’s goals and objectives on a daily basis.  Behavior is the number one reason they attend Whaley, therefore, we take that very seriously and work to change negative behaviors for students.  We collect academic data for students one time a week.  We do this so that we have nine data points when we go to write our progress notes for students each quarter of the school year.  

Check in and check out data is kept in a varying way.  Some students require a check in and check out during each period.  These are our Tier III students, those with the highest needs.  Staff members check in with these students at the beginning of the period to address the goals that they are working on all day.  Students discuss what they can do to meet their goals.  At the end of the period, staff will address how well the students did in attaining their goal(s).  Some of our students are Tier II, meaning their check in and check out is at the beginning of the day and then again at the end of the day in the same manner we work with those Tier III students. 

Intervention data is taken regularly.  Intervention data covers information such as students leaving the classroom without permission all the way to physical aggression; we take data on everything.  This gives us the ability to offer what works and what might not work.  It also allows us to see if there are times during the day where the student is finding it most difficult as we put times in our interventions.  We can track those behaviors and change their plans, if necessary.   

Lastly, we take data on engagement.  This was devised a few years ago when we were looking at our data and felt that it was only deficit driven, rather than something positive.  This engagement data is take two to three times a week at various times.  This allows our teachers to get a good picture of student engagement based on what is happening in the classroom.  For instance, Sally may be 100% engaged during hands on activities in the classroom, while her engagement drops during independent reading time.  This information is important for our teachers.  It allows them the opportunity to change the teaching methods for this particular student, if necessary.

Data-taking and understanding is integral in the educational field, and at Whaley School, it is even more important for the success of the student.   Without such important data being taken each day, we would have no grounds to consider a student eligible to move to a least restrictive environment.  We are committed to advocate for our students and by taking good data, translating it and using it for the betterment of the student, we are on the right track in creating change and success.