George Lucas Educational Foundation

Schools That Work | Practice

Humboldt Elementary

Grades K-6 | Dewey-Humboldt, AZ

Sharing Data to Create Stronger Parent Partnerships

By sending home detailed data reports that focus on a specific skill, Humboldt opens a two-way line of communication with parents about their child's learning. 

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Sharing Data to Create Stronger Parent Partnerships (Transcript)

Maureen: You hear about data-driven schools all the time, but we are truly data-driven. Sharing the data the way we do at our school, I think it's super important.

Because once you have everybody working together, you have the teachers, you have the interventionists, you have the aides and now you've got the parents on board, you can't have anything but success. In the last five years, we started really sending home data with explanations. When I send the data home then parents will start calling. I leave my first half hour of the day free so that if I have phone calls or if they are dropping their kids off and have a question, they can come down here. They know I'm open. We have a parent data night at the beginning of every school year. We try to have it after work hours and I get up on the overhead and I explain what the data is, what it looks like, what we do, what we're looking for and what they can do at home to help. I make a folder on every single student that I see. It shows every single test that we did, every single indicator that we did and where they fell in each individual test. It also gives them a cheat sheet on the acronyms, because teachers have a tendency to talk in acronyms and talk in teacher-ese. So if it says "oral reading fluency," I give them a cheat sheet that says, that is how many words you read a minute. They do get a standard report card too, but sometimes it's like, "I got a B in reading. What does that mean? My kid can read."

Maureen: So when Tony came in August, this is an average C student in the green. This is a below average student in the yellow. And this is well below average in the red. If he follows this path, which is what we're expecting him to do, then he will be an average student in second grade by May. The first test that we gave him is the nonsense words fluency correct letter sounds. These are your nonsense words. Now they look kind of odd for adults, but if you think of them as like syllables, like "re" is a nonsense word, "peat" is a nonsense word, but together they're a word, repeat. So at the beginning of the year when we tested him, he read thirty-one sounds. But now that we've been working with him for six weeks, he's up to seventy sounds.

Mom: Great.

Maureen: I know. And if you're going to work with him at home, really encourage him to read them as whole words.

Nine out of ten parents say, "What can I do to help?" And if you just say, "Read with them," well, read what? Getting down to specific skill gives the parents some empowerment to do something about getting that grade better.

Felicia: I think definitely it's made me more engaged. I know what to work on with Brayden, so I pay attention more. We've practiced a lot with reading.

Brayden: She helps me read a lot, helps me get the harder books and harder chapters.

Maureen: Everyone wants their kids to do well, so they want to know exactly where they are and how we're going to get better.

Carla: Jose was way behind. It started in kindergarten all the way through second grade, he was below grade level, and he started at Humboldt his third grade year.

Maureen: He was well, well below average. He had no confidence and he said, "I can't read" and "I don't read." His parents were kind of defeated because he'd been getting bad grades where he was, and mom got a data report.

Carla: She handed me the folder and I opened it up and I was just in awe and shock and tears, because I could see right away the growth on the chart where he was way down, and he was way high now.

Maureen: And he ended up staying in Title I because he had a tendency to go up and down, up and down. But to see that he was making progress, it motivated him, it motivated her.

Jose: She pressed her left hand to her cheek and smiled.

Carla: I could see the progress and I could see his achievements and I felt like what I was doing at home was helping with what they were doing at school.

Jose: I read a lot. I read about bats. I read about animals. I learn lots of things and my grades go higher and higher and higher.

Carla: He went from not wanting to read to, "Look Mom, I got a chapter book, and this book's about the-- can I read this to you?" And I'm like, "Of course." I believe if you have communication between teachers, parents, staff, that parents feel comfortable, kids feel comfortable and I think it's valuable that they communicate with you because then you know where your child's at.

Maureen: The fact that we all work together as one big group, I think a lot of our success is part of that, and the success that we've had as a school tells us that we're doing the right thing.

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  • Producer: Kristin Atkins
  • Field Producer: Megan Garner
  • Managing Producer/Editor: Julie Konop
  • Editor: Megan Garner
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  • Camera: Brad White
  • Sound: Steve Filmer
  • Graphics: Cait Camarata, Doug Keely


Sharing Data to Create Stronger Parent Partnerships

Parents are used to seeing report cards come home with their children a few times a year. But Maureen Holt, Humboldt's Title I teacher and reading specialist, wanted to share student progress more often and let parents in on the data that teachers were seeing. She began sending home data reports on every child she saw in Title I. She also organized Parent Data Nights, events where she met with each parent to demystify the reports. She explained acronyms, test scores, and trouble areas for their child, as well as providing tips and tricks for helping their student at home.

How It's Done

Sharing Data With Parents

Humboldt decided to send home the data that teachers were seeing so that parents could be informed about how their children were doing and the progress they were making. "Sometimes grades don’t show progress," says Maureen Holt, Humboldt's Title I teacher and reading specialist, "but data shows even the little progress that is being made." The goal was to increase parental involvement, because informed and engaged parents have a better chance of helping their kids at home.

Creating a Data Folder

Data drives every area of instruction at Humboldt, so Holt has a wide range of tests and assessments that can be included when creating the student data reports. She shares every indicator and test given in the report, so that parents are seeing the same data as teachers, "because then everyone is on the same page." She breaks each test out into its own chart or graph, and always prints the first copy in color, helping parents easily see how their child is performing on each indicator.

Holt also gives parents a cheat sheet of teacher acronyms, with the complete assessment title spelled out and a short paragraph explaining the acronym in layman's terms. This not only helps parents understand the data report, but also aids in getting everyone speaking the same language around the child's learning.

The data folder also includes examples of what each assessment is testing and, when possible, a worksheet or handout that will allow parents to practice that skill at home with their kids. Holt also shares tips and tricks for using the worksheets, such as practicing reading in the car on the way to school or working on letter naming in the evenings. This way, parents know exactly what their children are being tested on and feel empowered because they now know how they can help.

Parent Data Night

Scheduling a Parent Data Night allows parents a chance to ask questions and understand the interventions being done to help their child. At the beginning of the year, Holt schedules a large group Data Night after the school completes its first DIBELS test. Parents whose children will be receiving Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions are invited. This is a chance to explain to parents their students' scores relative to their peers nationwide. The meeting is scheduled after the end of most parents' workday, and Holt uses a projector to walk them through the data folder she created, explaining each piece of it.

After that initial Data Night, Holt holds smaller one-to-one data meetings throughout the year as needed or as requested. She sends home data every three weeks and usually meets with a few parents after those reports go home.

For parents that can't make it to the data night, Holt also makes herself available to do one-to-one meetings after school, and schedules her prep period to free up the first half hour of her day in case parents come in with questions about their child's data. She also shares the data report with teachers in a meeting where she explains the folders and graphs to the entire staff. That way, teachers can share the folder with parents who missed Parent Data Night, and they'll know how to field questions about the data. "When I send it home, then they'll start calling and they'll start coming in," Holt says.

Tips for Successful Parent Meetings

Holt says that she learned from her first attempts at a data night how the key to getting parents to come is to first make them feel comfortable in the school. Humboldt has Family Math, Reading, and Science nights throughout the year, where parents play games with their kids and learn about what they're studying, which helps parents feel more at ease with coming into the school and start seeing it as a happy place.

When meetings go wrong, Holt says, it's important to stay positive. She'll talk about a student's strengths and lay out clear steps for moving him or her forward. Setting expectations is also useful in helping parents understand that progress will come in baby steps and their child is not expected to completely turn around their performance in an unreasonable period of time. Holt also asks those parents what kind of communication they want, whether it's email, phone, sending notes home with their child, etc., so that parents are made to feel like collaborators and partners in helping their student improve.


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Kevin Thomas's picture
Kevin Thomas
Enjoying the teaching Journey and more than happy to connect with you in classrooms wherever you are!

Maureen, do you have a full classroom with the teaching of multiple subjects?
Would love to do that for all my students--would be so powerful. But I'm afraid I would be terribly stretched for time.
Please let me know what you think?

Maureen Holt's picture

Kevin, I am the Title 1 reading teacher at my school. I have 125-150 students per day that come through my room. I make myself available first thing in the morning and after school to talk about data with parents. The classroom teachers at my school make themselves available at the same time. Parents also call and leave messages so we can get back to them when we don't have students. Being stretched for time is totally understandable. Once parents understand the data, they are able to begin to read it themselves and just call for clarification.

Dawn's picture

This is an awesome idea. I think that this would also work great to assist parents of special education students. Thanks for sharing.

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