DDMs: There and back, a librarian’s tale

It all started with an email in the winter of 2014. Mandatory professional development, was scheduled for January on how to use DDMs. Now I know you were all thinking the same as I, what does the Dungeons and Dragons Manual have to do with teaching? My questions were assuaged when I learned that DDM stands for District Determined Measures, an initiative mandated by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), as part of the Evaluation system, which measures student learning growth. So how do I, a mild mannered middle school library teacher with an openschedule, implement this initiative? All I had to do was learn how to create, implement, and carry out an analysis of one critical Common Core standard (that I already teach!) that shows my students have made progress toward learning this specific concept or skill. Sounds scary, I know, but the feedback you get from your students’ assessments does help to streamline your teaching and help you to excel as a teacher through self-reflection and data analysis.

In the winter of 2014, every educator was to pilot using DDMs, and our goal was to create one for each teacher or subject area team for that year. Sounds simple, right? As we all know, librarians at different grades teach different skills. However, we do have common threads that run through all of our grades. Research skills are essential at all levels, whether we are teaching what books to use for information, use of the best non-biased website, or interviewing a primary source. Also, my DDM had to be accessible to, and allow growth for, all of my students. This being said I could pick a couple of classes within one grade for my assessment; I did not have to use every grade 6 and 7 student.

First there was the question of how to focus on one explicitly taught skill. For many of us, this took time to hone. I chose English Language Arts (ELA), Writing standard 9 for grade 6 which, roughly stated, says students should be able to utilize nonfiction sources to gather relevant evidence forresearch. Next, I needed to create a plan to explicitly teach this, making it as narrow as possible, while creating a rubric to assess if all my students had made growth by the end of the year. I needed to teach how to recognize relevant information and how it is dependent on their research topic. For this skill, I decided to assess how well all students could access relevant information. Classes come into the library throughout the year for research, so finding classes to work with multiple times was no problem. Using RubiStar, an online rubric generator, I created a rubric to assess my student’s work. In our district it was suggested that when creating a rubric, imagine that someone else is assessing your students. Also, the rubric should be able to determine which students had high, moderate, or low growth at the end of the year.

Next, I had to implement my plan. I started with a pretest to see what my students knew about finding relevant sources of information. There are many ways to do this. You could use paper and pencil, Google Docs to create a questionnaire, like I did, or utilize one of the following web-based/IPad-compatible tools: Socrative (quizzes, open response questions), Padlet (interactive forum for discussions), or Edmodo’s Snapshot (specifically uses Core Curriculum standards in Math and ELA), just to name a very few. After the pretest, I noticed similarities in what the students were lacking and, using this information, I created my lessons. During my classes I utilized many of these resources to perform formative assessments to ensure fidelity and reliability of scores while at the same time giving me feedback on my lesson’s effectiveness.

During April, I started collecting summative assessment materials to use with my rubric in order to determine if my students made growth during the year. I gave the same pretest that I had in January and looked for the percent of increase using my rubric. I did make changes to my lesson during this time, and the modifications were tried and retested. I had also started with a skill that was too broad and needed to narrow it down so that I was assessing only one skill.

Just a note that English and/or Math teachers in grades 4 to 8 are required to use at least one MCAS Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) as their DDM. This growth is obtained by comparing their students to other students in Massachusetts who, historically, have had similar assessment results. For teachers in all other subject areas, we can create our own DDMs and are encouraged to use assessments that we have in place, making changes so they will fit the DDM evaluation criteria.

We were fortunate when we began this pilot that our Office of Instruction was also new to this initiative, open to questions, and willing to help us through each step of the process. Starting this year, Teachers in all subject areas are asked to create two DDMs.

If you are new to this, remember you are assessing skills that you already teach. So breathe deep and remember that all you learn from this will make you a better teacher and help your students to succeed. Is there any better reason than that?

Elena Schuck is the librarian at Mattacheese Middle School