What A Data Wall Looks Like


Preface: Data-driven instruction is becoming increasingly popular in outcomes-based and standards-driven learning environments. Data visualization, then, is by proximity going to become increasingly important: what fresh, relevant data looks like, and how it cane be packaged so that it is accessible and usable for teachers on a daily basis. So it was with this in mind that we found instructional coach Kasey Kiel’s post on her blog interesting. Her original post appears below.

by Kasey Kiel, Literacy Coach

A data wall unites a school by bringing a staff together to see students as “our students” versus his students or her students.

In our school, we use it to help identify students for reading interventions, to visualize common trends in data, and to set goals for where we want our students to be.  We keep the data wall in the hallway that leads to our teacher’s lounge.  It is not out in the open for students/parents to see.

Here is the best I could do at getting a “full snapshot” of the data wall.
Here’s another shot of part of the data wall above and below.
Each card on the data wall represents a student in our school.  We used little stickers to identify students who are have had a reading intervention outside of the language arts block this year, are identified as special education in reading and/or writing, are English Language Learners, and Gifted and Talented.

This is the key for the data wall.  Each student is represented by a different notecard.  Each color of card represents a different grade level.  We use the Fountas and Pinnell grade level expectations.  It is a leveled continuum from A-Z that is measured by the Benchmark Assessment.  We use students’ benchmark levels to work with students during guided reading.

Currently, at this point in the year, our 5th graders are expected to be reading at a level U or above, our 6th graders are expected to be at a level X or above, and our 7th and 8th graders are supposed to be at a level Z or Z+.

Each student notecard contains the student’s ID number, their benchmark score from the first, second, and third round on benchmarking, and any stickers to identify students with different circumstances.

Editor’s Note: Another example of a data wall can be seen below, from photobucket user Megan_Wheeler.

Data Wall photo DSC02236.jpg

What A Data Wall Looks Like; 2 Data Wall Examples


  • This violates student privacy on many levels. FERPA prohibits public disclosure of certain educational information to any but specified people. School officials must have a “legitimate educational interest,” which would not include more than a handful of people who might happen to walk down the hallway to the teachers’ lounge. The information you are disclosing includes special education/IEP status; ELL and Gifted & Talented status; educational interventions attempted; and their test scores and education level.

    But aside from its violation of the law, this violates the trust that students and their parents place in us. Any principal who would advocate such a vehicle for humiliation, and the teachers who would obey such a directive, have a great deal to learn about teaching. Shame on you.

    31-year veteran teacher
    2012 District Teacher of the Year

    • Might want to take a closer look there. I don’t see any student names. How, exactly, is this a breach of privacy? A huge time-wasting task for teachers that reduces students to bits of data and gives credence to intended outcomes (i.e. test scores–let’s be honest here) that have zero lifelong value for kids, sure, but an invasion of privacy? No.

      • Fk me, if you as a teacher think that tests used in the appropriate way
        are some kind of social inequality trap, then you better get out into
        the real world. Standardized tests are the ONLY way to assess student
        knowledge and learning, but are not a means to learn, maybe why so many teachers hate tests – it
        showcases their lack of teaching ability to instill core knowledge and techniques onto students.

        Constructivism is dead, the sooner you as
        teachers realise this, the sooner we may be able to catch up with the
        21st century and Asia. In the meantime, keep churning out the (halfwit, dropout,
        can’t string a sentence together or recite times tables, but have
        deeper knowledge and problem solving skills ) students that you
        currently do and enjoy the ride to the bottom, where you’ll be working in call centres servicing China and Singapore. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

        • So many points of contention, it is hard to know where to begin. Let’s begin with the billion dollar testing industry party line that “standardized test are the Only way to assess student knowledge and learning.” Hopefully, you are not an educator, because your ignorance on the subject of student assessment practices is staggering. Students are and have always been assessed in countless ways, such as observation, presentations, portfolios, performance tasks, oral discussions, rubrics, norm referenced tests, etc. teachers hate high stakes tests because they are limiting by their nature. Ratings and subsequent funding rely to an almost exclusive degree in many states on such assessments. This pits pressure on administrations to emphasize the tests above all else, which trickles down directly to the classroom, leaving teachers to feel obligated to focus on tested skills at the expense of all else of value.

          If you need a concrete example of standardized testing done correctly, look to Finland, consistently referenced as having one of the top education systems in the world. There, tests are administered infrquently and randomly (which, if you knew anything about research and assessment, you would know is the best way to assess), with a focus not on evaluating teachers or schools, but the national curriculum.

          As for your obvious preference for traditional facts and skills over broader, “soft skills” such as critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, etc., you should know that the “real world” you claim to know so much about has led the call for these types of skills. Rather than wanting legions of drill and kill test master robots, business and industry leaders, such as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and others, have actively lobbied schools to look past a system that was created to provide skilled assembly line workers in the industrial age. And those Asian countries you believe the US must try to catch? Consider Shanghai, which has had such a test mindset as to top the world rankings in recent years’ glabal assessments. They are now undertaking an overhaul of their system, because they are lacking in graduates who can think, create, and innovate. They recognize that they need workers who can do more than work in low paying manifacturing jobs, because there is a dirth of groundbreaking new ideas. Of course, you would warn that they will soon come crumbling down and rue the day they abandoned their bubble sheets. The world has changed, and to believe that education should not follow suit is the height of arrogance and ignorance, and it is a strategy guaranteed to lose.

  • Teacher evaluations require teachers to post goals and have students track their own data. There are no names, but it is required in order for teachers to receive high evaluation scores. Yes, it takes too much time, although students do enjoy and get motivated to meet and exceed goals. There is NO violation of FERPA!

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