Triangulating Data

Just the other day, a new principal asked me about the concept of triangulation. It’s one of those terms we use in working with data, and I thought I’d write briefly about it here.

Take a look at the following visual. There’s a message. Can you tell what it says?

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Let me give you a piece of “data”. See if that helps. Can you now tell what the message says?

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Still can’t quite tell? How about if I give you a second piece of data. Take a look and see if you can tell what the message says.

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Hmm, not quite? That’s because two pieces of data won’t always be enough to give you the big picture of what is going on in a content area.

Let’s add a third piece of data. What does the message say?

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Even though you still cannot see the whole message, you likely have a very good idea of what the message says: “High Student Achievement in America’s Public Schools.” You are able to see that because I’ve given you enough data to see the picture of what the message says.

When we work with data, it is important to remember that one piece of data does not tell the whole story of a student, a school, or a district. It takes numerous pieces of data to paint a picture of how things are really going.

Triangulation is when we use three or more pieces of data to help us paint a more accurate picture of whatever it is we are studying. In a school, we might be looking at performance in English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, or Social Studies. For each, we’d use three or more pieces of data to begin to understand achievement by content area.

Here is an example: Triangulate Data for Reading in an Elementary School


  • percentage of students proficient on state reading assessment.
  • percentage of minority students proficient on state reading assessment.
  • percentage of economically disadvantaged students proficient on state reading assessment.
  • percentage of special education students on proficient on state reading assessment.
  • percentage of English language learners proficient on state reading assessment.


  • percentage of students at grade-level as measured by district benchmark test.
  • percentage of minority students at grade-level on district benchmark test.
  • percentage of  economically disadvantaged students at grade-level on district benchmark test.
  • percentage of special education students at grade-level on district benchmark test.
  • percentage of English language learners on grade-level on district benchmark test.


  • percentage of students meeting 90% or more of the grade-level student learning objectives.
  • percentage of minority students meeting 90% or more of the grade-level student learning objectives.
  • percentage of economically disadvantaged students meeting 90% or more of the grade-level student learning objectives.
  • percentage of special education students meeting 90% or more of the grade-level student learning objectives.
  • percentage of English language learners meeting 90% or more of the grade-level student learning objectives.

In all cases, we looked at overall results, but also disaggregated the data by subgroups, to monitor the performance of all the students being served. We can determine if there are gaps in achievement well before a state test is given if we monitor the performance of subgroups on other assignments and assessments.

Additional measurements could be added in, like quick surveys asking students about their reading habits and how much they enjoy reading – and could even be done at the beginning and end of the school year to determine if you’ve made some leeway in building good reading habits and attitudes. You could also include performance-based assessments such as having students read aloud (and have this recorded) and hold discussions about what they’ve read. While we don’t have much say about what the state assesses, we do have say about what a district, school, and classroom teacher assesses – so assess what matters! Triangulating the data will help you know for sure if students are on track!

I added the red, but the source of my puzzle design is from Dancing Crayon Designs (Teachers Pay Teachers). Love her work!




Wilroy Property for Sale

It’s really a beautiful property. The old house, garage, and barn have been removed. All property upgrades have been completed. All icky old tanks in the ground have been removed and disposed of correctly. The lush property sits at the intersection of Route 58 and Wilroy Road. The QVC Warehouse is right down the street. Bunnies Restaurant is your neighbor. The property has been rezoned to Business. It’s 3.3 acres that backs up to the Nansemond River. There’s a shared pond on the property that gives a unique feel. There are plenty of trees and the beauty of nature. Suffolk’s Planning Department is easy to work with – and this is a terrific city in which to live and work. There are so many things you could do with this property; contact Mark today to make this property yours!

Contact Mark: 757-539-6513 or 757-650-3388

Michigan’s New Reading Law

Get to Know Michigan’s New Reading Law – in this beginning-of-year activity, staff will learn key information related to the new reading law through a custom graphic organizer and a corresponding question set. (This is specific for the 2017-2018 school year.)  I actually had a lot of fun designing the graphic and I hope you’ll enjoy using this with your teachers. You know superintendents want you and your teachers to know this information!


Additional Resources Cited in the Graphic Organizer

Construct Relevant Vocabulary for English Language Arts and Literacy

10-6-2016-6-31-11-pmWhat?????? If you’ve been keeping up with SBAC, you’ve already seen this. If you’re one of our teaching colleagues in Michigan, make sure you download the vocabulary and integrate the information into the good work you are doing in your lessons.

Both SBAC and the MDE note that “Construct relevant vocabulary” refers to any English language arts term that students should know because it is essential to the construct of English language arts. As such, these terms should be part of instruction. These are words that may appear in assessment stems or options on the ELA M-STEP even though the EDL Core Vocabularies: Reading, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies (ISBN 1-55855-811-X) might identify these terms as above grade level for general use. Because these terms are part of instruction in the ELA classroom they are considered construct relevant and thus allowable for this use. The following list of “construct relevant vocabulary” was compiled by the ELA test development teams. This list is NOT intended to be a default vocabulary curriculum; instead, the list of terms is intended as an instructional resource to ensure that teachers remember to embed these terms into their instruction. The list is a working document; it is neither “finished” nor is it all-inclusive.”

The introduction in this document basically says to pay attention to the vocabulary in this document. It was released in Michigan on May 31, 2016 – just before summer vacation, so you may not have had the chance to loll over this during the summer. The beginning of the new school year is a good time to review the document and think about how you’ll use it in a way that fits within your lessons.

Below you can link to the whole document, or just the grade levels you need.

MI Construct Relevant Vocabulary, Entire document, Grades 3-High School

MI Construct Relevant Vocabulary, Grade 3

MI Construct Relevant Vocabulary, Grade 4

MI Construct Relevant Vocabulary, Grade 5

MI Construct Relevant Vocabulary, Grade 6

MI Construct Relevant Vocabulary, Grade 7

MI Construct Relevant Vocabulary, Grade 8

MI Construct Relevant Vocabulary, High School


Redesigned SAT – Essential Language Progressive Skills Alert

80dfc343-4711-4bb0-90df-ea0f5de34427A number of weeks ago, I wanted to answer a question related to the SAT Practice Tests – those tests the College Board made available for us to help teachers and students become familiar with the redesigned SAT. I personally wanted to check the alignment between the SAT questions on the Practice Test and the Common Core State Standards. As I worked through every single question on the tests, I discovered an interesting piece: Every single standard on the Language Progressive Skills list in the Common Core State Standards is tested. Every single one.

We need to make sure everyone knows this!

If you’re a curriculum type, you may want to use this information as you tweak curriculum in your district. If you’re an assessment type, maybe you’ll consider talking about this when you’re making connections between the SAT Content Dimensions and the Common Core State Standards. If you’re a principal, perhaps you’ll share this with your teachers because they are likely still learning about the redesigned SAT. If you’re an ISD/RESA person, perhaps you’ll want to include this in some of your training materials.

Download the Progression of Language Skills.

It’s up to teachers in multiple grade levels and content areas to help students learn important language skills, so I do hope you’ll consider sharing this with others.

Join Deb at ASCD in April 2016!

2015-10-03_20-10-59I’ve got some great news; I’ll be presenting again at ASCD’s Annual Conference! If you’re coming to the ASCD Conference in April 2016, I hope you’ll consider attending my session: Protocols for Using Data in Instructional Learning Cycles.  Built around ASCD’s theme, “Learn, Teach, Lead“, this session will provide friendly tools and protocols for working with instructional learning cycles.  If you’re a teacher, you’ll find some great ideas here – ideas that come your way in a teacher-friendly way.  If you’re a principal, you’ll also find some terrific ideas, as I’ll have tools that will help you when working with your teachers.  If you’re in the central office, this is a strong session for getting additional ideas for working with your staff, too.

ASCD Annual Conference 2016

Shift Happens! A shift in vocabulary, that is.

Image, Shift Happens

As you know, when the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts were released, we all learned about the Instructional Shifts.  As you read about the Common Core and the changes it brings, you’ll see two basic lists of the shifts – one with three items and one with six.  The list with 3 shifts simply combines some of the shifts.  I prefer to keep the shifts separated, as shown below.

Image, Slide 1

In case you’re wondering whether or not the shifts matter, I want to let you know they do.  All six of them.  But as with anything, you’ll have to figure out how to use them and make them work for you in your school or district.  When thinking about the shifts, there are at least a few times and ways you can use them: (1) Develop curriculum, (2) Design high-impact lessons for students, (3), Design aligned assessments to the college and career readiness standards, and (4) Design professional development experiences for teachers and administrators.

Now, I want to share each of the shifts with you – one at a time – in hopes there’s a thing or two you can use. Today’s shift is Vocabulary.

In using my shift pages, you’ll want to know how I’ve set them up. I’ve designed a format for beginning to think about each of the shifts.  The following visual, How the Shifts Are Set Up, shows my logic in thinking about the shifts. Take a quick look.

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After a quick description of the shift, you’ll see two areas: one that provides hints for curriculum and another that provides hints for instruction and the possible professional needs of staff.

By way of example, there’s a shift that speaks to text-based answers.  It’s a standard in the curriculum – and teachers need to understand what it means. We all need to understand what it means; it’s even being tested as part of the redesigned SAT. Remember, evidence is king in the CCSS – so I chose it for the example.

Now, take a look at Shift 6, Vocabulary. I chose to present this one to you first as so many schools and districts are focusing on vocabulary development.

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For the Common Core ELA standards (including the literacy standards), Academic Vocabulary is a big shift.  As you can see from the visual, the focus should be on pivotal and commonly found words.  (The redesigned SAT will focus on Tier II words in context, but that’s not why we need to focus on vocabulary. We need to focus on vocabulary because it will help our students learn.)

If you’re working on curriculum at the district, school, or classroom levels, there are a number of ways you can provide support for academic vocabulary.

Integrate shift in curriculum units:

  • Place vocabulary throughout lessons, where appropriate, rather than at end of units.
  • Provide activities for students to work with words
  • Identify core vocabulary . Use sources such as SBAC, PAARC, Tier II, and Tier III words.
  • Provide descriptions of core vocabulary
  • Provide content cards where needed.
  • Provide a list of core vocabulary words and corresponding descriptions for units.

Additionally, as you are thinking about professional development, consider some of the examples:

  • Direct Explicit Instruction for Vocabulary
  • How to Develop School-wide Vocabulary Supports for Students
  • How to Determine Core Vocabulary for a Course, Department, and/or School
  • High-Impact Vocabulary Strategies
  • How to Help Students Track Their Own Learning of Vocabulary Words
  • Tier II Words
  • Tier III Words (for social studies, science, and technical subjects)
  • Helping Students With Their Own Word-Learning Activities
  • Effective Strategies for Teaching New Words

I so hope some of these ideas will be helpful to you as you support schools in improving achievement.


Common Core State Standards

Common Core Shifts for ELA and Literacy

Examples of Lessons for Teaching Vocabulary

Content Cards – Details, Details, Details

Common Core Standards for Literacy in Science (Includes ideas for vocabulary.)

Motor Mouth Review

Content Cards – Line Graphs

Content Card – Parallel

Content Card – Bar Graphs

Content Card – Measuring Length

Content Cards: Text Structures, Grades 9-12

Today’s post is Text Structures for Different Types of Writing.  I designed this tool for teachers, but there are many pages that will also be good resource materials for students.   In this handy guide, you’ll find a quick overview of the text types (i.e., Argumentative, Informational, Narrative) in the Common Core State Standards.  AFter that, I’ve included my content cards for the following five text structures: compare/contrast, cause/effect, problem/solution, sequence, and description.

Check these out to see if they are something you can use!  Here’s the link:

Examples of Lessons for Teaching Vocabulary: ELA K-12

You already know how important it is to teach vocabulary.  You likely also know that we need to be directly teaching important vocabulary words.  I’ve provided these examples to give you an idea of ways you might structure lessons to teach vocabulary.  The examples are in a pdf format and ready for you to download and use.

Kindergarten Example:  Introducing Words in a Scene

Grades 01-02:  Words from The Little Fly and the Great Mouse

Grades 03-05:  Multiple Meaning Words

Grades 06-08:  Multiple Strategies for Recognizing Words

Grades 09-12:  Root Words

New Cut Scores for Michigan’s MEAP and MME

It’s official.  You have likely heard that the new cut scores were coming.  Well they’re here.

When the MDE sent a memo out this week reminding everyone that historical data with the new cut scores attached would be released on Novemember 3, 2011 – I jumped into action.

I’ve put together a few materials that should be useful to you as you get to know your new cut scores.

DOWNLOAD THE 14 PAGE PDF HERE.  And do let me know if there’s anything else you need.