Meet Ms. Feeney
Second Grade Teacher at P.S. 279, located in the Bronx, New York
Enrollment: 1090 Students
Student Demographics: 79% Hispanic | 17% Black | 4% Asian
English Language Learners: 31%
Students with Special Needs: 20%
Free or Reduced Lunch: 96%
In the beginning of the school year, Ryan Feeney, a second grade teacher at P.S. 279 in the Bronx, faced the challenge of having to meet the needs of every student in her class. She needed an efficient way to identify and then meet the learning needs of all her students, who were at varying academic levels and many had learning differences.
Ryan worked with her PowerMyLearning coach, Lauren Burner-Lawrence, on the Data-Driven Instruction domain of PowerMyLearning’s Framework for Teachers.
First, Lauren helped Ryan to incorporate PowerMyLearning Connect Checkpoints as exit slips—previously, Ryan used paper-based assessments exclusively, so this was a big first step. (Checkpoints are digital multiple-choice and open-response questions that typically come at the end of a playlist to help students and teachers assess student mastery.)
After her students completed a playlist, Ryan used her checkpoint data to differentiate her instructional materials and to re-teach concepts in new ways.
She said, “A benefit of using Checkpoints was that it saved me time in being able to really see who got the gist of what we were doing and who needed a little more scaffolding or reinforcement.”
As the academic year progressed, Ryan began creating some of her own Checkpoint questions to add to her Playlists on PowerMyLearning Connect. Doing so encouraged Ryan to think deeper about the purpose of the questions as they related to the lesson.
1. Using Data to Strengthen the Classroom Environment
Ryan used the data she received from PowerMyLearning Connect reports to set up student groupings for station rotations. Stations allow students to rotate through different learning experiences such as a teacher-led station, a station for peer collaboration, and a station for independent practice.
“Everybody learns differently and everybody gets the concept in different ways. By assessing the data you can see who needs what and how to group your kids in a way that enables everyone to understand the information,” Ryan said.
2. Using Data to Strengthen Student Ownership
Ryan used data-driven instruction to push her students to develop ownership of their learning. She said Checkpoints encouraged her students to communicate what they knew and what they didn’t.
Small group instruction enabled students to develop a sense of independence that they may not necessarily have had with whole group instruction. The peer-collaboration work fostered a community where students helped each other troubleshoot and work through problems. All of these changes led to students advocating for themselves – pushing Ryan, themselves, and their peers when they still did not understand.
It is precisely because students started to feel like they had more control and agency of their learning that they began to love Checkpoints. Lauren, her coach, noted this as well, “Once the students understood that they could use Checkpoints to see if they ‘got it’ and their teacher could use Checkpoints to help them learn, they really enjoyed doing them.”
3. Using Data to Strengthen Student-Teacher Relationships
It may sound odd to make the connection between relationships and assessments, but when formative assessment is used well it can help teachers grow their connections with their students.
Ryan described this outcome well when she said, “My relationship with my students was strengthened as a result of getting to know their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes you gravitate towards the lowest groups because they need the most reinforcement and it’s natural to work with them the most. By having these data-driven groups, I was able to really get to know each of my students and understand how they learn and their specific needs. It definitely strengthened my knowledge of my students, which has deepened my relationships with them and my understanding of how they learn best.”
Ryan believes her experience with data-driven instruction can help other teachers experience the same success story that she did.
She shared the following advice for teachers who face similar challenges:
“My whole class is a success story. I could see such a growth from the fall until now. My advice to teachers who want to start using data-driven instruction is first of all, do not be intimidated. I think data-driven instruction is extremely important because it gives us a guideline. Yes, we have teacher guides and yes, we know which standard we’re going to be teaching our students, but by gathering data and driving your instruction according to the data, we can really get the nitty-gritty of what students truly need. Exposing students, even in the second grade, to assessments lets them know what they can expect and enables you to determine what your students need.”