Initial Data Collection

by | Sep 17, 2018


As the school year continues to take off, many teachers begin to consider and prioritize goals. Goals under consideration may be professional, academic or behavioral.

Professional Goals

  • Refer to the performance standards provided by the administration. These standards typically outline goals for
    • Attendance
    • Engagement
    • Document Submissions
    • Professional Development
  • Review coaching goals established by your instructional coach. If you do not have an instructional coach, request professional coaching to determine strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Consider goals that have carried over from previous years. Each year you are given a new set of students, but that does not mean you, as a teacher, reset. As a professional educator, it should be your goal to improve your own performance every year. Identify an area of struggle from the previous school year and set a goal in that area to improve upon.
  • Reflect on long-term goals. After a few years of teaching it can be easy to fall into a routine. Don’t make changes just for the sake of making changes, but look at what can be done in an effort to make progress on any long term goals that you have not met.

Academic Goals

Academic goals require a different approach. Schools provide academic goals that typically revolve around standardized test scores. It is important, as an educator, to develop academic goals beyond those of test scores. Work with families to determine what academic goals they have for their children. Allow students to develop their own academic goals. These types of goals often come in the following forms:

  • Formative and summative assessment scores.
  • Initial placement test and mid-year placement test scores
  • Homework scores
  • Fluency goals

Behavioral Goals

Behavioral goals often align with classroom management. By moving toward achieving behavioral goals the classroom is given more time to focus on the academic goals. The less time spent on student interruptions allows for more instructional time. 

  • Student behaviors
    • Speak outs
    • Response rate
    • Aggressive behaviors
    • Transition times
  • Teacher behaviors
    • Praise rate
    • Feedback rate

Once the more generalized types of goals have been decided upon, more precise definitions of goals must be developed. When defining a goal, it is important to ensure each goal is measurable and objective.

Write each goal down, then go back to ensure each goal is clear, concise, quantifiable with a specified means of measurement and objective.

If at any point you are uncertain, have a second or third party evaluate your goals. When defining your goals it is also important to identify an end date. The end date can be within the week, before a break begins or even the end of the year. Be sure to share the end date with students regarding their specific goals.

Open ended goals are rarely achieved.

Considering a variety of goals for the upcoming school year is a great starting point, however, the end objective is to see measurable growth. In order to do this, an initial set of data collection or baseline data collection must occur. Taking baseline data provides a definitive starting point. Developing a well-structured, goal and measuring growth is unfeasible without a data-driven starting point.

Baseline data should be taken for all established goals.

Consider each goal you’ve created. If there is not a way to measure baseline, the goal needs to be redefined as it is not measurable. Determining the best method of measurement may require some research. Frequently, behavior and academic measurements fall within 5 categories.

Common measurements include:

  • Duration – How long does the behavior last?
  • Latency- How long between each occurrence of the behavior?
  • Frequency- How many times does the response occur?
  • Rate- How many times does the response occur during a specified time frame?
  • Percentage Score- How many questions did the student answer correctly out of the total sum?

Baseline data should be collected at the beginning of the school year. Use your time efficiently at the beginning of the school year to effectively determine placements and other classroom needs. This can be done through placement tests, initial observations, lesson assessments, fluency timings, transition timings and other necessary measurements.

Once classroom needs have been identified, take some time to measure current levels of performance. Certain behaviors or academic performance levels may require multiple measurements. For example, one reading fluency timing may not truly depict a student’s current reading performance level. It is important to ensure enough baseline data has been collected to accurately represent current skill levels. If you are unsure if enough data has been collected, continue to collect data until you see a consistent score. Two or three consistent data points typically indicate a reliable reading.


Providing student feedback is a critical step of data collection. While it is important to keep students informed of ongoing progress, it is just as important to ensure they have a clear understanding of their starting point. Students will not be able to gauge growth if they are unaware of their initial performance levels. If students know where they are at and where they are trying to get to they will be more likely to stay focused and driven to achieve their goals.

Along with building buy-in, informing students of personal performance levels and progress allows them to identify strengths and weaknesses. Providing scheduled opportunities for students to analyze their data and review overall performance growth (visual representations work best) gives them the chance to celebrate improvements as well as create sub goals to overcome barriers.

In addition to providing student feedback, it is important to maintain consistent professional feedback. This is often delivered during debriefing sessions or through coaching or administrative reviews. As a professional with the responsibility to provide a successful educational experience for all students it is important to request performance feedback if you are not already receiving it. Don’t take coaching as a knock on your performance as a teacher. Instead, use it to improve yourself and that improvement will reflect on your students. Much like the students you teach, you cannot perform better without a clear understanding of what and how to improve.