"This bulletin board in our team space tracks how much total dosage each corps member has. The treasure box says how much as a team we're on track and the orange rectangle contains a challenge and incentive that is updated every other week – this week, a team outing to JP Licks. Once you hit 900 minutes of dosage, you get an icon in our rainbow house at the top. Also, the streets and landmarks around the board are all real streets and landmarks around our school, as a nod to our rich Dorchester community."
Data is one of the most important tools in the City Year AmeriCorps member toolbox. Corps members use data to set goals with students, know what resources to pull in to help them, motivate them with friendly competition, and know how to distribute their time among students to be most effective. As you’ll read, data is inextricably linked to providing the best possible service to our students.
We sat down with Grace Lee, AmeriCorps member serving on the Santander Bank team with the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School, to learn more.
How data today means better service tomorrow
Grace loves serving with middle schoolers. The students have an informal and comfortable rapport with her, saying, "Hey Ms. Shorty," and leaning on her, referencing her petite stature. "Working with eighth-graders, every day is different. Sometimes they're silly, sometimes I see real growth in them,” she says.
At the start of each week, AmeriCorps members receive a dosage [the amount of focused time that they have already spent with students] summary sheet. "That sheet gives me an idea of which students I need to be more intentional with in the classroom. Knowing that going into the week is really helpful," says Grace.
The more time Grace has spent with a student, the more that student is willing to call her over and ask for help. She checks in with students on her focus list every day, saying, “Hey, how are you doing? Do you need any help?”
Another place data comes in handy is in establishing where to start with tutoring. For example, at the start of the year Grace learned that her ninth-grade student was at a fifth-grade level academically, based on data she received from her partner teacher. Armed with this knowledge, Grace knew where specifically to begin and what resources to pull in.
Academic data is also a tool to motivate students. "My partner teachers [Grace serves in a cohort model and supports two classrooms] have thermometer displays on their doors that show how much academic progress they've made as a class. They’ve both increased almost 1.5 grade levels on average. The students love seeing the thermometer inch upwards and seeing who's winning. It introduces an element of friendly competition."
Grace has one very shy student on both her academic and social emotional learning(SEL) focus lists. Jessica* is a recent immigrant who, at the beginning of the year, was independent and wary of who, giving Grace “the side-eye” often. Jessica lacked confidence, and tended to say “I don’t know” a lot. However, Grace could say “You do know” and point to her most recent grade on a quiz. After consistent check-ins together, (which Grace ensured there were enough of through dosage data), Jessica’s grades have risen and she now doesn’t hesitate to flag Grace over for help. She even makes fun of Grace, which is “the ultimate good sign in middle school.”
Grace says, “Throughout working with Jessica, data on what skills she had and hadn't mastered was integral to me supporting her and setting goals together. Knowing where to start saved time, and knowing how much dosage she already had helped me make sure it was consistent.”
While collecting data can be time-intensive in the moment, Grace is grateful for the role it plays in her service on a larger scale. "Being able to see trends and causes to make next-step decisions, and being able to quantify time with students and course-correct accordingly, helps me ensure that my amazing middle schoolers get the best possible service from me."
Data deep dive – a session of several hours where a City Year team comes together and reviews and interprets all recent data about students and work with students.
Dosage – total amount of focused time an AmeriCorps member spends with a student. A corps member needs to hit 15 hours with each student by the end of the year.
Focus list – A list of students identified by a corps member's partner teacher who are in danger of falling off track. These students might have challenges in attendance, behavior, or academics. Throughout the year, the corps member will devote extra time and energy to those students.
Learning how to interpret data is a highly transferrable skill that AmeriCorps members gain in their service year, along with leadership and instructional skills. See what other skills AmeriCorps members gain and apply!