August 30th, 2019

How a Teacher Created “Data Monsters” In Her Classroom!

Standardized testing. Progress monitoring. Data.

Did those words make you cringe a little?

If so, you are not alone.

Many educators feel that these terms have been overused and abused. Any good educator will tell you that students are more than numbers on a chart. After all, there are skills that some test can’t measure. Right?

Yet, we continue with testing. Why? Because of these words: Accountability and evidence.

Pros & Cons of Standardized Testing

There are many pros and cons to using a standardized testing approach, none of which I will write about today. For a classroom teacher, these pros and cons are not part of my reality. My reality is the 25-33 little people in each class who depend on me to teach them a new skill.

These skills, that I went to school (for a long, long time according to my sixth graders) to teach, will one day help these little people make big decisions. I owe it to them, and their parents, to give my best effort in not only teaching them these skills but celebrating with them as they grow individually. Celebration measures are essential for the classroom teacher.


Celebration Measures

Celebration measures, both qualitative and quantitative, are used to show growth from then to now. At times, students will celebrate major gains; while other times, we celebrate the small steps. It is a process, which is very important to the learning journey.

The idea of celebration learning is not a new one. (See articles here, here and here.) It is all about producing and sharing what you’ve learned. While celebration measures are from various data points, GradeCam is a major tool for helping teachers monitor the quantitative (number) data.

Need: Easy & Quick Data Analysis Tool

Looking back, my celebration measures started with desiring a consistent quantitative analysis tool; that my students could easily follow and repeat without me. The goal was triad:

  1. measure the effectiveness of my lessons to achieve the desired learning target
  2. communicate progress with students/parents/stakeholders
  3. reflect

And to do this often.

This means in between the tears Cody cries for mom in the mornings, the fights Brian and Ty go-at right before lunch, or Jenny sleeping during 3rd period, I needed to make time for reflection. Yes, teachers deal with more than content and testing. This teacher was in need of an easy and quick approach to reach my goals of good quantitative (number) data, while I handle the qualitative (quality) measures.


Enter GradeCam

During the 2014-15 school year, a data platform called GradeCam was introduced in my school. The system worked similar to an old school scantron where the students bubbled in ABCD and the teacher scanned the sheet for accuracy. However, this old school idea was now in the comfort of your classroom, car, home, gym, or after-school faculty meetings (we’ve all been there)… because the scanning device was now any camera. Amazing idea for convenience, but that wasn’t even the best part.


After scanning in the students work, the quantitative data was automatically there; the average, standard deviation, median and mean scores. Thus giving students (and the teacher) effective feedback quantitatively on their progress… within seconds.

Initially, this data was mainly for my (teacher) reflection. Then it became a piece for student reflection by incorporating an end of the lesson/unit reflection journal entry. Next, we began sharing our celebration of learning with a whole group pre and post score celebration wall (wall outside of our door to showcase our growth). Lastly, it grew to a (teacher) data binder of growth used to guide instructional design.

They became, what I affectionately referred to as, data monsters.

Organizing My Data: Pre- & Post-Test Method

Using a pre- and post-test method, I started building my evidence in a data binder. At the start of a new unit/lesson/skill each student would complete a pre-test to “show what they know”. For the purpose of accuracy, I preferred to use the same pre- and post-test, so long as it proved to be an effective measure of the unit/lesson/skill.


The students would complete the pre-test and then complete a reflection for their learning on a learning target sheet. They recorded the pre-test score, wrote a plan or goal, and then began completing a self-reflection of what they already knew about the unit/lesson/skill (often this was in the form of a KWL; graphic organizers to teachers are like Instagram streaks to teens).

As for my part, I would project the GradeCam Score Graph overview (it doesn’t reveal names) on the board and we would discuss what the data is as a whole and how large our standard deviation was for the unit/lesson/skill.

Then I would print the score graph for the whole group, individual groups (by class periods, special populations, student response to particular questions, by standard), and an overview graph of questions (correct versus missed). These printouts were placed in my data binder as evidence of where students stood before the unit/lesson/skill began in class.

While GradeCam is an excellent tool for any assessment, I used multiple ways to formatively assess my students; making sure each student is presented the information in a way they might learn best during the unit/lesson/skill learning period. After which, I would return to GradeCam for a post (summative) test.


The post-test, was again, the same measurement tool as the pre-test and given using the same method as before, so that, the data would be as near a true reflection as possible (considering that I couldn’t account for every environmental, or other, change that might have a direct impact on the data).

Reflection & Celebration

Once the process was complete, my students would chart the post score, write what they did to learn (do), what they did to prep for the test (study), and what they will do (move on or revisit) after the test (act). I would repeat the process from projecting the data, discussion, and printing out the data for us to celebrate. The overall score graphs were posted outside of the classroom, while the students and I collected the evidence in our journals/binder to celebrate our growth.


Creating a Data Binder


Empty binder

  1. Empty binder
  2. Printout of GradeCam reports (pre and post)

Outline: Organize by unit/skill/lesson; if you do this as you go, it will be easier to track changes at a glance.

  • Cover (if desired)
  • Print and add the GradeCam data for each unit/skill/lesson as you go
  • (optional) Tabs or title sheets to separate the unit/skill/lesson data
  • (optional) Blank paper for reflective statement (I highlighted/wrote thoughts directly on the printouts of data)

Benefits: The students quickly realized that it wasn’t about the number/score on the paper, but the reflection and celebration of their progress. They wanted to see the numbers and celebrate the growth, even going from 18% to 38% (hey, that’s 20% higher than the last time!).

After a while, they wanted to do more with the data. The celebrations really had them thinking about how I could individually direct their progress by focusing on the data.

When their demands for detailed feedback began, that’s when I realized… I had created data monsters.

If you’d like to get started creating data monsters in your classroom, sign up for your 60-day free trial today!


Dr. Jennifer Whitney-Emberton teaches Computer Science & Technology for grades 6-8 at Franklin-Simpson Middle School in Franklin, KY. You can find her on Twitter @JREmberton.