PREFACE: Understanding student progress is widely regarded as a cornerstone of almost all highly effective teachers, schools, and organizations. It’s not just a “Teach For America idea” – in fact, this understanding is held both at home and abroad. Because of the link between student achievement and tracking progress, all Teach For America Corps Members agree to share student data with their TLD Coach on a consistent basis as part of their contract with the organization. The baseline requirement for math teachers in Mississippi is to track standards mastery and performance tasks using our Mississippi Math Tracker. So with that said, let’s talk about why this is vital in being an effective teaching professional and learn how to use the tracker!

“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.”

–  Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer, authors of The Progress Principle

At this point in the year we’ve been discussing feedback a whole lot in our math content sessions. Maybe it is because we’re math teachers, but often times we end up thinking that feedback = a number, typically a score that goes into a gradebook and then *poof* disappears from our minds until students freak out about failing right before the grading period ends. As we have been learning in our sessions, feedback is not just a number; feedback is a conversation, and this conversation impacts the math identity of our students. If we assign students a number from 0-100 then they will consider them along that scale. Most if not all students probably already think this way, since too often the gradebook is how we classify the progress and abilities of students.

I previously discussed how we might make assessments that answer meaningful questions, but then the question beyond that is – what next? What do we do once we get those answers? Well, the first step (but by no means the only step) is to actually figure out student proficiency through the lens of progress. As the quote above mentions, progress towards a meaningful goal is intrinsically linked to motivation. And at a basic level, holding quantitative goals allows us to more easily remove personal bias and give students something tangible to reach towards. This also keeps things consistent so that we are not constantly moving the goalpost for student achievement (although, as Grant Wiggins discusses here, we can define what rigor might mean at different points in the year as long as we are purposeful and transparent about this with students).

So let’s cut to the chase – how do we measure progress across our math cohort? While there is no single way that we will measure progress, we do have a baseline of progress that must be tracked…

  1. Content Standards Mastery – These are the Common Core (or other benchmarkable) standards (i.e. 7.EE.1) on which most of our students will be assessed at the end of the year. I want to be clear here – tracking student progress on these standards is a vital component of equitable education: our students are being held to these standards (for most this will take the form of a PARCC assessment, while others this will be the ACT or AP exam), and for us to deny students information on their progress is to deny them a fair shot at success in these measures of achievement. Additionally, failing to quantitatively understand student progress on these standards (as opposed to just giving our “best guess” about what we think the trends were) constrains us from making meaningful decisions about how to adjust our instruction throughout the year. At the most basic level these are proficiency scores for each standard, but ultimately they form the basis for equitable instruction and feedback to our students.
  2. Performance Task Proficiency – While a whole lot of things could be qualified as a math task, I’m specifically referring here to tasks that assess mathematical thinking (not just skill memorization). For Common Core this is exemplified in the eight standards of mathematical practice which will be explicitly tested through the PARCC Performance Based Assessment. I love these tasks as well because they provide a wealth of information about student learning and provide an amazing opportunity for feedback.

To that end, we will use the Mississippi Math Tracker – an all-in-one excel spreadsheet that allows you to track performance tasks and content standards. More importantly, once you have rubric scores and grades inputted into the tracker, this resource becomes a battleship of information. You can automatically see trends across unit assessments and performance tasks, decide what feedback makes most sense for your students, and have meaningful conversations with your TLD Coach around student progress. Ultimately those actions are where the magic happens, but it all starts with the baseline of tracking student progress.

So without further adieu, go ahead and take a look!

  1. Make sure that you download the Mississippi Math TrackerExemplar Tracker, and our regional performance task rubric (based on the QUASAR rubric).
  2. Watch the tutorial below to understand how the tracker works.
  3. Start tracking! We will dive into some of this during Kick-Off Part II for all 2014 CMs and participating 2013 CMs, but this first step needs to be owned by the teacher before meaningful conversations with fellow teachers, TLD Coaches, and other staff about student progress can take place.
  4. Any questions? Fire off below or send me an email!

Happy Tracking!


One thought on “Meaningful Feedback with the Mississippi Math Tracker – Tutorial and Guide!

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