When I started teaching in 1989, we didn’t have standards. We had textbooks and the common sense we were born with to cover what we thought students needed to be successful in this world. As an English teacher, I chose which books I wanted to teach. I knew I needed to cover writing which included grammar, spelling, sentence structure, transitions, word usage, parallel structure, voice, and ideas. I also knew I needed to cover both fiction and non-fiction comprehension. To assess student learning, I created quizzes and tests that usually had fill in the blanks, short answer, and essay questions. I didn’t assess by standard. I didn’t know to make sure my assessments were balanced with a fair amount of questions to assess each skill I had taught. Basically, it came down to whether students remembered what I had said and whether they could imitate what I had shown them. My teaching was teacher centered.
Fast forward 30 years. We now have standards telling all teachers what a student needs to know on a continuum from K-12. We have No Child Left Behind which focuses on the collection of data and the proof of growth. We also have competency-based learning and personalized learning along with Project Based Learning and blended learning to name a few. What all of these learning methods have in common is the tracking of student progress.
While working with a high school, our focus was on students tracking their own mastery as a boost to student agency and ownership. Setting up a tracker is easy if you base it on standards. Below are trackers I created for my teachers who were using USA Test Prep, a software system that both teaches and assesses and works quite nicely as a complement to classroom teaching. (Disclaimer: I do not work for or get any compensation from USA Test Prep.) Spreadsheets are best to use for creating trackers because they are already set up in a grid system. You can choose to have students run horizontally or vertically with the standards and indicators running perpendicular to the students.
The trackers below are for a wall and could be used for celebrations instead of the long-held belief that they are for shaming. If we celebrate every student who shades in a block to show mastery, every student will want to shade in another block. If used as a positive, community-building chart, tracking data can be powerful.
Another way we can use the tracker for community-building is for helping one another. From this tracker students know to whom they can turn if they haven’t mastered a standard yet. If I am a student struggling with standard 6.1 Theme, and I see three other classmates who have mastered it, I can ask them to explain it to me. Sometimes, students communicate better to one another. It definitely helps if the teacher schedules community time and encourages students to seek and give help as needed.
Sample Student Trackers
English 2 EOC Skills Student Tracker
Algebra I Skills Student Tracker
Biology Skills Student Tracker
US History and Constitution Skills Student Tracker
Within USA Test Prep, there is a Student Dot Rank, which tracks mastery of skills within specific categories like assessments or within all categories including games and activities. Green=80%+ mastery, Yellow=60-79% mastery, and Magenta=1-59% mastery. Here is an example of what you will see:
Software programs that help track mastery are a blessing because they are able to track amounts of data that humans could never track manually. However, it is possible to track data without the aid of a software program. That topic will be covered in my next blog, so stay tuned.
If you are tracking student data and have questions or tips to share, please use the comments area below. Also, feel free to contact me directly for a conversation about student skills tracking. This is an area that many of us can still grow in.