Using Data to Inform

My experience has taught me that while teacher instinct is invaluable, it is only bolstered when pairing it with data from the individual students as it relates to program-level goals. As such, my guiding question with data is always, “How does this inform instruction?”  Below are samples of using data to inform decisions at various levels:


Looking at Data


Gathering Data in One Place

Research is clear that using a combination of formative and summative assessment data to inform instruction yields the best student results. As such, it is important to have access both kinds of data. As a small district, my current program did not have access to centralized student data.  The director of Teaching Learning and Innovation and I co-created student data sheets that housed formative and summative assessment along with WIDA-inspired ELL learner profile data.

Click to see a sample of the Data Sheets

Protocol for Looking at Data

The Teaching Learning and Innovation department led a series of PDs for teachers using SRI’s ATLAS-Looking at Data or Data-Driven Dialogue Protocol. With all the data in one place and a protocol with prioritized standards to follow, teachers have been able to participate in PLCs and respond effectively to the following questions:

  • What do we expect our students to learn?
  • How will we know they are learning?
  • How will we respond when they don’t learn?
  • How will we respond if they already know it?


Program-level Data Analysis

It goes without saying that in order to communicate effectively with stakeholders and make decisions about things like staffing and service model adjustments, it’s important be able to look at program-level data and analyze below for patterns. It is only through understanding the WHAT and WHY, that we can take ownership of the HOW and make informed, impactful decisions.

During remote learning during COVID 19, our department investigated reading data and to determine next steps in supporting our district’s 3,500 language learners.  Our analysis uncovered gaps in Kindergarten instruction and also unearthed grade-level and building level instructional assets, which allowed us to both address the instructional concerns and build off the great things being done in individual classrooms.  The analysis led to changes in district support that facilitated growth in ACCESS scores and an increase in student engagement measured by surveys and classroom walkthroughs.

Reading and Math Data Multilingual Learners Mid Year 2021


Below is a two-year analysis of Daystar Academy’s ELLs in terms of baseline proficiency, growth and exits.  This analysis enabled me to shift our service model from a largely stand-alone streaming model to co-teaching and targeted pull-outs.  It also allowed me to staff effectively and shift programming to more reading and writing instruction.

Daystar Academy Language Learner Summary 2016-18


Informing Instruction

To modify my own instruction, I use formative and summative data from student data sheets, ELL learner profile data and prioritized standards and learning targets.  Specially, analyze prioritized standards and content using WIDA Performance Definitions to determine linguistic complexity. I then analyze student data and WIDA level, along with WIDA Can Do Descriptors and to design WIDA MPIs and equitable and effective instruction that is a best-fit for student language proficiency.

Lexical Load Example

In one example that comes to mind, using WIDA Performance Definitions I was able to determine that my WIDA level 2s were struggling with a lexical load that was too high for them.  To remedy this, I was able to find reading material that used the same Tier 2 vocabulary as the language arts anchor text, but with a much lower lexical load.  Thus, these students were exposed to grade level concepts and vocabulary that was within their Zone of Proximal Development. Students developed the same comprehension sub-skills as their peers (determining main idea and detail) using supports from the MPIs (leveled text, sentence frames, and word banks with the support of a peer). In this manner, I kept the rigor high as well as the accessibility.

View a sample of MPI strand used.

View a sample of leveled reading.


Early Literacy Example

Another example that comes to mind is an early literacy example in grades 1-3.  Our students’ MAP  reading scores for grades 1-3 weren’t progressing as much as we had expected after adopting a new curriculum. Digging into the MAP learning continuum data showed us a trend of a large group of students struggling at the phonics level.  Responding to this, we gave this group of students individualized phonics assessments and were able to determine gaps in decoding skills.  From there, we were able to dynamically group students and further target their phonics instruction to fit the needs of those gaps during our guided reading times and literacy centers.  For students who still needed more help, we were able to set up short-term literacy interventions managed by ELL teachers and para-educators.  This increased targeting of specific decoding skills to specific students led to much more efficient progression of decoding proficiency for our ELLs.

Example of early phonics data 


Action Plan

Using the PLC question format (above), educators are often are faced with determining what to do when students aren’t hitting the learning targets we are setting. When making revisions to our instruction isn’t enough, we sometimes need to do interventions or make action plans for individual students.  In this example, this student was scoring far below his peers in reading, he wasn’t producing much writing and the literacy instruction in the classroom just wasn’t working.  To approach this, the teacher and I assembled reading data and five writing samples.  After analyzing the writing samples using the WIDA Writing Rubric, we were able determine that this student was struggling at the vocabulary level.  We were also able to identify specific gaps in decoding skills.  Reaching out his parents and using a combination of resources, we were able to put together an action plan that addressed vocabulary-building, specific decoding gaps, and moving from sentence-level to phrase-level writing.  The plan helped this student find purchase and he made significant leaps in all three areas.  We were then able to revisit the plan, make adjustments to the goals based on his work and roll out a second round. After two cycles, I’m happy to report that he is no long on an action plan!

Action plan example


Action Research Example

Untitled-1A district I worked for in the U.S. encountered a huge influx of low-level English Language Learners (ELLs), the majority of which were  WIDA level 1s and 2s (newcomers). The district was at a loss as to how to proceed.  Continue the current model (co-teaching and push-in)?  Shift to pull-outs? How much?

As there is not a lot of research regarding newcomers or SLIFE and service models, I performed an 8-week action research study comparing two service models: co-teaching and push-in; targeted pull-out with push-in support.  I was able to determine that targeted pull-out with a sheltered instruction model was a better fit for these students as they made larger strides in decoding, comprehension and writing development.  As a result, we were able to shift to this model until the students were able to pass beginning of the year benchmarks.  At that point, we were able to shift back to co-teaching and a push-in more effectively.



Student Work Samples

At the end of the day, our work as educators is to advance student success.  I invite you to view a sampling of student work supported by tools and strategies implemented by myself or my ELL team.




Middle School

WIDA Level 1
Over the years, I have worked with many Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE).  When I met this particular student, he had only received a year of formal instruction as a twelve year-old.  This is a sample of his writing in the beginning of the year.
Through creating class-constucted models, the use of sentence frames and feedback, this student’s work started to blossom even though his lexicon was still quite low.  This a sample of his writing mid-year.


WIDA level 2




WIDA level 3

Elementary School


WIDA level 1
WIDA level 2


WIDA level 3


Language Supports and Differentiated Materials

I invite you to peruse some of the instructional supports I use, adaptations I have made as well as work my students have produced.



I use the Frayer Model and also adaptations of Marzano’s 6 Steps.  Using strategies like these, alongside Beck’s Model and multiple meaning-rich interactions, I’ve seen students’ academic lexicon explode.

I believe in using concrete images whenever possible and pairing them with student-friendly definitions and student drawings.

Together, I’ve found this can help students connect to vocabulary more quickly and thus retain it longer.



View a sample of Vocabulary Powerpoint.






Speaking to Writing Connection


Research tells us that ELLs benefit from making connections from speaking to writing when grappling with academic content.  In my experience, most learners benefit from clarifying and developing understanding of complex concepts verbally. Two of the best tools I’ve found to address this Jeff Zwiers’ Academic Conversation Placemat with Prompts and the National Science Foundation’s Discourse Moves (

While these take some modeling, norming and feedback, and certainly need some adjustments for younger learners and entering/emerging language learners,  I’ve found the process to be invaluable in providing learners the structures and conventions for deepening thinking.   Higher level discussions, even with limited vocabulary, are fun for learners and definitely lay the ground work for better writing.




Writing Scaffolds

sentence-frameI’ve found the combination of the following to be game-changers for my students:

  • Analyzing Models
  • Using background knowledge to generate vocabulary and ideas
  •   Sentence Frames and Word Banks
  • Peer Feedback


At first, student use of sentence frames may sound formulaic, but over time students start to make the forms their own as they build vocabulary, analyze models further and make adjustments from targeted feedback.

See samples below of student work using these four strategies:



Writing Scaffold Sample

After reviewing our standarized reading data along WIDA writing assessment data, we as a school determined that we had some issues with writing related to stamina.  As one of many initiatives to address this, our school rolled out a mandatory writing period; where for 20 minutes each day, everyone the school would write. A sample writing prompt for elementary can be found here.

While this was a great step for our school, it was a shock to the system for our WIDA level 2s and 3s. Imagine trying to write in a non-native language for 20 minutes a day as an emergent language learner!

The challenge then was to devise a scaffold that could be used with the prompt for WIDA 2-3.  This is a sample of the scaffold for the sample writing prompt.  The full set can be viewed here.
The response was overwhelming.  Students went from being frustrated and producing nothing, to filling multiple pages in a  matter of weeks.



Assessment Differentiation – Keeping the Rigor

As a part of our unit on non-fiction, our 2nd grade team designed a reading test  to assess the following standards:

  • RI2.8: Describe how reasons support specific points the author makes in a text.
  • RI2.9: Compare and contrast the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic.

The grade had several WIDA level twos who were reading in the A range on F+P running records and BR range on MAP.  As a team, we were concerned that the assessment was not accessible to our WIDA level 2s and that the assessment would not return useable data regarding students’ true ability to demonstrate their knowledge as it relates to these standards.

After deconstructing the standards into component parts, we were able to adapt the assessment text to fit the criteria for emerging readers using the WIDA Performance Definitions.  Once we had accessible reading material that fit the standards being measured, we were then able to use the Can Do Descriptors and List of Supports to design supports for the assessment.

The results were amazing!  Teachers learned that students had a much higher proficiency with the skills of identifying key point and details and comparing and contrasting than they had anticipated.  This in turn helped them to design their next unit to build off of this proficiency and extend it.  From the student point of view, our WIDA 2s were able to demonstrate their knowledge, lower their affective filter, and build confidence as readers.




Culturally Responsive Teaching

When teaching my new-to-country SLIFE students family vocabulary, I found that the Western-centric imagery and material for teaching family structure was not working for my students.  Part of this, is that the material in a lot of ESL texts is not representative of the cultures many students come from.

To counter this, I created some material using actual photos of Somali families as well as some graphic organizers that reflected their family structure as well as using names that were more representative of their background.  The result was telling.  Students picked up the vocabulary faster and used it more effectively.

View family vocabulary slideshow

View family tree


Teaching Videos

Welcome to my video section of the site. Here, you can view teaching samples as well as educational support videos I have made or facilitated with our ELL/EAL teams to support parents and students.

Teaching Sample 1: Elementary ELLs – Supporting Language Arts

Standards assessed:
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 5 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).
Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

Teaching Sample 2: High School ELLs – Supporting Language Arts

Standards assessed:

Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 11-12 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies

Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.


Bilingual Parent Support Videos


Supporting Literacy at Home | School Expectations


Using Technology to Support Your Child’s Literacy at Home

This initiative was a collaboration between the ELL teachers and Chinese teachers to help English and Chinese speaking parents support literacy at home in a concrete way by helping parents understand and use two of our favorite online literacy resources: Reading A-Z and Phonics Genius.  The teachers collaborated with Chinese colleagues to shoot and translate the videos. The result was a marked uptick in use of these tools with parents and students!

Using Reading A-Z at Home to Support Your Child’s Literacy

Using Technology to Support Phonics at Home

Reading With Your Child at Home Using Reading A-Z


Bilingual School Expectations Videos for Students and Parents

This initiative was a collaboration between students and ELL teachers in order to help all students and parents understand school expectations given that there were many new-to-country families to our school who had limited or interrupted formal schooling in the past.  The students brainstormed school norms and agreed to them through voting.  They then co-wrote the scripts and created the videos with graphics and sound.


Banaadir Academy Expectations: School Arrival

Banaadir Academy Expectations: Hallways

Banaadir Academy Expectations: Cafeteria

Banaadir Academy Expectations: Recess

Banaadir Academy Expectations: Bathrooms

Banaadir Academy Expectations: Dismissal and Busing