Talking to Parents About Data – Continuing the Conversation

On Monday, October 25, 2015, Schoolzilla’s VP of Impact, Dr. Leo Bialis White, hosted a webinar, Talking to Parents About Data, featuring Arleta Lopez, Assistant Principal at Clemente Charter School in Maywood, CA, and Dr. Sarah Wheeler, school psychologist in Piedmont Unified School District.  You can download an audio recording of the webinar, or check out selected bits of the conversation below:

Leo Bialis-White: To start with the basics, why is it important to share data with parents?

Sarah Wheeler: One of the things I try to remind myself is that parents know a lot less about what goes on during the school day than we think.  There’s so many things, often really positive things that we do and that their students accomplish that they just don’t know about. Data can be a good way to make sure that they’re staying informed.  And then the other piece too is that parents only have their children, so that’s their view.  It can help– especially when you present it in the right way– to show parents how their child is doing in comparison to big samples of children or to other children in the school.  

Because often, parents really have a hard time– they know where their child is, but they don’t know what that means developmentally, or if that’s what the expectation is, so they need to see that in comparison to other children.

Leo: Which data is most important?  Which data do parents really need to have and why is that?

Arleta Lopez: I think the data that parents really need to have is the data that shows them where their child needs improvement or support.  That’s the number one question, how is my child doing? Where can I help him or her?  Parents get happy obviously, to see where their child doing well, whether they have strengths in reading, writing, math or whatever it may be.  But the number one question that I get is where does my child need help.

Sarah: I would add too, just progress data, data over time, is really huge for parents to see, whether it’s showing successful progress or a child that’s not making progress.  Whether it’s academics, if it’s coming up to school on time, whatever it is.  Showing them that data over time and then connecting that to interventions or changes in what’s happened is really helpful. It’s helpful to show a parent, you know, your child was absent five times last month but only one time this month, and so the changes that you’ve been doing to get them up early, that’s making a difference. That really connects things to what they do and their impact.

Leo: Sarah, I’ve heard you say a couple of things around giving people context, how they’re doing in comparison to other students, how they’re doing relative to the past.  It feels like giving the numbers some meaning is really important?

Sarah: When you’re doing something like presenting to the parents of a student with special needs, there are dozens of data points.  So I think about what is the story that I want to tell parents with that data, and then select key data points that help illustrate that story.  I want them to walk away from this meeting understanding that the reading interventions we’ve done with their student have really made a difference and now we want to do the same thing with math, so how do I show them the data on their child that supports that story?  Cause otherwise, it’s just numbers…

I like to call out that it can be uncomfortable to talk about a child in terms of numbers, that some of it is confusing for me, that some of the things that I show them are things that help me understand the data, and that’s why I use them, like charts and visuals.  I try to normalize that it can feel kind of strange to hear your kid talked about like this. We’re always looking at the whole picture of a child, and here is some information that is not the whole story, but adds a little piece. So again, helping them contextualize that the data isn’t everything, but it’s an important piece, and we’ll talk about what else we know about the child that helps us understand the data in a bigger context.

To listen to the rest of Monday’s conversation, download the recording here.