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Making Sense of STAAR Data Part 3

When I think of heat maps, the first thing that comes to mind is the weatherman showing me a color-coded map of my city in reds and oranges, and staying that way for most of the summer. Fortunately, that summer weather is pretty much over for this year.

But that’s not what we’re going to talk about today.

STAAR Data Heat Maps

STAAR Data Heat Maps are data visualizations that create color-coded “maps” of student performance at the (SE) level of the TEKS. These are designed to help campus leaders quickly identify specific critical areas for teacher support and professional development.

(NOTE: As we look at heat mapping today, you may want to access the free template made available by lead4ward at http://lead4ward.com/resources/. lead4ward also provides a premium version of the data heat map that deserves serious consideration: http://store.lead4ward.com/data-heat-maps-excel-2010-required/.)

When we use heat maps, we want to compare STAAR data with TAKS data.

But why?

Simply, the TEKS stayed the same.

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the language that we use to obtain Teacher Perception data, and in Part 2, we looked at a big picture through the “We, Me, OMG” model.

Now let’s look at the state trends that all of us need to pay attention to with the idea that this is where our work may be. The STAAR 3D Online Course goes way deeper into each subject area, but here we’ll only look at one key finding from each:


Low SE data for process standards can indicate the processes were not taught in context, but rather in isolation. This is confirmed if teachers are upset there isn’t a longer unit on safety at the beginning of the year.

Worth noting for ALL leaders, not just Science teachers, is the importance of having a clear understanding of Descriptive, Comparative, and Experimental Investigations because of the relationship with academic vocabulary that students need as a critical base.

Social Studies

Readiness standards were tested only 0 to 1 time. Therefore, we must supplement with local data to analyze this area, otherwise we’d have to wait 10 years to have enough STAAR data to improve in this content area.

A critical word necessary for improvements when teaching Social Studies is “Relationships”. As we look at data to inform Social Studies practice, every teacher’s classroom should use storytelling that will help students learn the relationships of people to places, events to concepts, causes to effects, and perspectives to politics.

An example of people to places is: “Why was the Birmingham jail an important place for Martin Luther King when he wrote his letter?”


Scores for Numbers, Operations, and Quantitative Reasoning concepts are trending down. For this content area, you can access the document used in STAAR 3D by going here: http://responsivelearning.com/Demos/Lead4Ward/STAAR3D/Documents/StudentPerformance.pdf

Historically, we will try and fix the grade level where numbers turn red. But in the world of STAAR, where the cells turn red is where the concept gaps catch up! And the concepts are the gift from one teacher to the next. We need to look ahead, within the lower grade levels, to prevent these gaps.

OK, in the next article, we’ll take a look at Reading, Writing, and wrap up this series. For now, I’m off to enjoy the great weather we have right now… still warm enough to go for a swim, but cool enough to enjoy the park.

This article is adapted from a very small segment within Module 3 of 4 in STAAR 3D: Data, Decision-making, & Development. The online course is available for $250. To learn more, or order visit http://staar.responsivelearning.com/or call 915-532-9965.

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