Driven by Data

Using Academic Data to Attack the COVID Slide

Planning for how to address the COVID slide, or even a COVID slowdown, is challenging given the undefined path of the next few months, but one thing that is certain is that data will play a more critical role than ever in efficiently and effectively planning to make up for lost time and learning. The key questions many are looking to answer – which data to use, when to collect the data, and what to do with the data. While no consensus has been reached, a number of ideas and strategies are emerging that capture how schools plan to use current and future data to attack this learning slide.

COVID Slide Implications

District leaders, school-based teams, and teachers all over the country are dealing with the monumental task of transitioning to remote learning without the typical runway that such large-scale change requires and deserves. While this daunting task is consuming almost all the available time of these thought leaders, an even more formidable challenge is waiting in the wings – tackling the learning loss caused by these unprecedented school closures. A recent analysis published by the Collaborative for Student Growth at NWEA looked to capture the potential implications of this loss of learning, which they have deemed the COVID slide.

“Preliminary COVID slide estimates suggest students will return in fall 2020 with roughly 70% of the learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year. However, in mathematics, students are likely to show much smaller learning gains, returning with less than 50% of the learning gains and in some grades, nearly a full year behind what we would observe in normal conditions.”

 The full brief can be found at

Gathering the Data

  1. SY19/20 Interim Data: While the school year came to an abrupt end for almost all schools in the middle of March, many school leaders and teachers are maximizing data from internal and external interim assessments that were administered prior to the closures. This data is mainly being used to determine future scope and sequence modifications, intensive remediation rosters, and initial schoolwide intervention plans, inclusive of daily schedule adjustments. Additionally, schools are working to gather resources for students and families that allow for continued exposure to material that has been mastered, while also gathering resources that will support teachers as they incorporate missed concepts into their instruction. Given the lost time, many are choosing to focus their analysis, planning and resource gathering on the major works of the grade in math and the anchor standards for reading and writing, as these are the standards that require proficiency for continued success in future grades.
  2. SY20/21 Baseline Data: Most schools have assessment plans in place that allow for the capturing of baseline data at the beginning of each school year. Capturing data from assessments such as NWEA MAP, i-Ready diagnostics, and early literacy assessments like Dibels, F&P testing and STEP, within the first two weeks of school will give school leaders a clear picture of what the COVID slide has meant for their population. In addition to using this data in the ways it has traditionally been used, school leaders can also plan small-group instructional blitzes, share tailored resources with families and students, and design individualized student learning plans for those impacted most by the extended closures. Regardless of what the data from these baseline assessments show, school leaders can identify time now that will be set aside on the calendar for leaders and teachers to interact with the data and action plan accordingly. The closer this can happen to the end of the administration window, the better.

Analyzing the SY19-20 Interim Data

  • Ensure that data from interim assessments is captured and in the hands of those who will be driving the vision and planning for instruction moving into next year.
    • Valuable schoolwide trends can be found on EdOps dashboards.
    • For many, student-level data can be pulled from online testing platforms such as Illuminate, NWEA MAP reports, or ANet’s portal.
    • If your school is not currently utilizing online platforms for interim assessments, make sure that teachers are capturing performance data in a uniformed way that can be shared with instructional leaders and future teachers.
  • Adjust Scope and Sequence Plans for the upcoming year to include major works of the grade or anchor standards that were only addressed during distance learning, or that were not met with levels of proficiency for the majority of your student population. This will be an easier task once school calendars are released, but can also be done loosely now by coupling related standards into appropriate units that will be plotted out more clearly at a later date.
  • Identify students who should remain, or be included, on intense remediation rosters based on low performance and low growth on Interim Assessments from the SY19-20.
  • Conduct an analysis of your school’s daily schedule to ensure built-in time for intervention and increased social-emotional support. This could be done by looking at smaller details like class times and the ways that minutes are used during advisory/morning meeting times or larger components like program offerings.
  • Gather some resources for students and families to access or use during the summer months. These should not address new content, or standards with weaker performance, but instead focus on opportunities to stay engaged with areas of strength.
  • Identify time on the calendar to analyze baseline data as a larger staff, and the initial data protocols your school will use in different meetings.

Planning for SY20/21 Baseline Data Collection & Analysis

  • Administer a baseline assessment within the first two weeks of the school year.
  • Have teachers and leaders engage with the data and action plan accordingly.
  • Plan small-group instructional blitzes that address gaps in learning. These can be built into intervention times, small group rotation classes, or other designated times in the daily schedule. These blitzes are typically brief in nature and rosters change regularly.
  • Share tailored resources for students to access that encourage engagement with mastered skills. This could be the assignment of learning paths on blended learning programs, providing access to texts at a specific reading level, or establishing a “library” of free resources to share with students and families along with a specific standard or skill they should focus on.
  • Identify students requiring individualized plans to help remediate even larger gaps in learning due to the extended closures.

[This post contributed is a guest contribution from Susie Cannon, Former Chief Academic Officer & Chief of Network Affairs at Achievement Prep.]