Recently we heard from a second-year teacher who admitted that while his resume was otherwise quite impressive, it had one significant weakness: a lack of objective data.
At the year’s start, he’d fully intended to track his students’ academic progress in a measurable way, but as the year got underway in which he was teaching an all-new curriculum at a school that placed little emphasis on data-driven teaching, something had to go.
For him, like for many, that was tracking and reporting achievement data. It is, after all, a serious investment of time and resources to keep records updated, and—most importantly—to use that data.
Why Objective Data is a Resume Must-Have
The problem is that if you’re a “mover” like this teacher (i.e. you’d like to stay in teaching, but move to a different school and/or job), the strength of your measurable impact could be the difference between landing a great-fit job or not. Measurable impact is what school leaders at high-performing schools want.
In fact, just this week, the Executive Director, Talent Management at a major charter school network as well as the superintendent of a large urban school district offered us the same piece of advice to share with job-seekers: "Tell teachers not to confuse activity with accomplishment," they said.
Activities can demonstrate passion, commitment, creativity and skill. But school leaders who are held accountable to the state, and to the students they serve, also want to know how your activities made a measurable difference.
How many of your students went from below standards to meeting standards, or from meeting standards to mastery? How many started a curriculum unit not knowing how to formulate a hypothesis, or an algebraic equation, or a complete sentence—and ended the unit demonstrating mastery?
Objective data should be the star of your resume.
But, if you’ve let your data-tracking habit slip, or if you never learned to track and use data in the first place, producing a data-packed resume can seem daunting, maybe even a bit discouraging.
That’s normal, but like with anything, it’s best to just get started.
5 Tips to Get Started Using Objective Data
#1: Get comfortable with the concept of using testing and data to measure and inform your teaching and your students’ learning.
The aim of assessment should be “to educate and improve student performance, not merely to audit it” (Wiggins, 1998, p. 7). To this end, people should gain important and useful information from every assessment situation. — Knowing What Students Know
Testing and data should not replace other forms of measurement—such as holistic or qualitative—but should support and inform your classroom practices. Consider it a co-mingling of data to help you understand your students’ better and meet their individual needs.
Some suggest focusing on data is a misguided approach and fosters a learning environment where students are numbers, not people. But actually, data-driven teaching lets you see your students more clearly and become a storyteller, as this excellent example of one principal’s “data wall” illustrates.
#2: Start with your next curriculum unit.
You don’t have to wait until next fall to be a data-minded teacher; you can start with your very next unit.
Create diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments using best practices in assessment design. (If your data is to be accurate and useful, your assessments must be valid.) Use the formative assessments, especially, to inform your instruction throughout the unit. And then add the results to your resume or profile.
#3: Find some tools.
One reason good-intentioned teachers abandon data tracking is because it can be time-consuming and overwhelming without the right framework or tools. Fortunately, these days there are tech tools designed specifically to alleviate the pains of data tracking—including some developed by enterprising educators.
Check out Kickboard, which lets you track, report, and collaborate on students’ behavior and academic progress and Mastery Connect, which lets you share and discover common formative assessments and track students’ mastery of state and Common Core standards; it even includes an iPhone app. Though these aren’t entirely free tools, both companies offer teachers free limited versions of their products, which is enough for the rookie data-tracker to get started.
Of course, you can always go old-school, or well, if old-school was like 2008, and create your own Excel spreadsheet for tracking.
#4: Results-ify your resume.
After you’ve finished a unit (or, retroactively gathered data on previous units), it’s time to share the results on your resume or profile.
The difference between an Activity and Accomplishment-Centered statement? Here’s an example.
An Activity-Centered Statement:
I prepared students for state standardized testing in reading and writing through various creative, meaningful lessons and activities, including reader’s theater, writing workshop and author’s chair.
An Accomplishment-Centered Statement:
92 percent of my 141 seventh-grade language arts students scored above standards or exemplary on the Kansas Reading Assessment compared to just 42 percent who scored the same on an initial diagnostic assessment.
Or, based on just one unit:
92 percent of my 141 seventh-grade language arts students scored an 80 percent or above on the Unit 7 exam reflecting proficiency or mastery of RL.7.1—Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text—compared with 33 percent who scored the same on the unit pre-test.
#5: Look for a job in a school that supports data-driven teaching.
If you catch the data-driven teaching bug after your initial experiments with the approach, you’ll want to seek employment at a school that will take you from a data amateur to pro.
Research shows that teachers need between 30 and 100 hours of professional development to learn and implement new practices.
So, a school serious about supporting data-driven teaching will allot time and resources to professional development aimed at helping teachers improve their use of data in the classroom.
Make this a core question you ask when interacting with school leaders during the application and interviewing process. For those schools that support data-driven teachers, your questions will make clear that you speak their language, and would likely be a good fit.