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Using a Reading DATA WALL Effectively

Updated: Jul 6, 2022

I have a love/hate relationship with data walls. I always have and probably always will.

In many classrooms and schools, it is a requirement to make progress and testing data publicly visible. I really don't like shaming kids and being the cause of negative feelings. I really don't like shaming teachers and being the cause of negative feelings.

I truly believe that no one--not even district personnel--should be able to come in and have a conversation about a specific child based on the scores, data and numbers displayed on the wall if they have never met that child or know his or her academic history.

🤔 I think publicly visible teacher and student data makes people teach to the test so their numbers “look good”.

🤔 I think publicly visible teacher and student data highlights and draws attention to only the failures of a group.

🤔 I think publicly visible teacher and student data, depending on how it is displayed and used, can violate FERPA.


A Data Wall is a place to show a snapshot of a group...not specific students and their personal information.

Data walls should be created, displayed and used with the definition of progress in mind and the well being of the group the data is describing.

Data walls should be used as a big picture to START conversations about more specific student data.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those politically correct people that want to give everyone a participation award with roses, smiles and sunshine. BUT…I am the teacher who has the responsibility of making sure every student in my care makes progress and their information is kept confidential.

My personal working definition of PROGRESS

is not passing a standardized test

and moving to the

Meets Expectations category

on a data wall or data report.

My personal working definition of PROGRESS

is moving forward

and reaching a goal

that once could not be achieved,

but after specific actions

and work that goal is now achieved.


Data walls should not have personal or confidential information (student names, id numbers, programs received, test scores etc)

Data Walls should provide a big picture of the group(s) data being analyzed. This kind of data wall can start the conversations by noticing patterns and trends in the data displayed.

Look at the wall above to show reading levels for 3 grade levels. Each sticky note shows how many students are reading at each Fountas and Pinnell level at the particular snapshot time (data snapshots for Fall, Winter and Spring) The more specific data is in the hands of the teachers...who really hold the instructional interest of the child. This wall provides a snapshot of the readers on campus.

Data Walls need to be viewed and used with a certain perspective that starts the professional conversations in a district or a school or a grade level that are needed to move students forward.

A Data Wall is the BIG PICTURE! It's a starting point for the conversation.

The real data analysis comes from the progress monitoring documentation and students' work samples.

This is where the "rubber meets the road" to inform and drive the instruction.



Display group data and set group goals, such as class groups, grade-level groups, etc. Don’t single out students (or teachers). We are not in the business of shaming kids or groups of kids. We are not in the business of shaming teachers or groups of teachers. Let’s look at the big picture...

Celebrate the group's successes! All successes—no matter how big or how small! When that student or group of students moves even a half step forward towards meeting their goal, celebrate it! If a student doesn’t make it to the Meets Expectations category, we must help him/her see what successes were made.

Stay away from making it a competition or race. When students don’t “win” the competition, they cannot see the successes they have had along the way. Every student learns differently and at a different pace. Any step forward is progress…even it’s only one step. Provide students with their own tracking tools to see their personal progress.

Move further careful data analysis to a more personal level. Attention should move from the data wall and into specific group data. Teachers dive into their classroom progress monitoring documentation for individual students. Check out the handy tool below for guidance. Students dive into their work portfolios and notebooks to find evidence of meeting their goals and setting new goals.

Grab access to a cheat sheet for evaluating student reading work to keep in a student reading portfolio by clicking here...

The forms pictured above to help with data analysis

and reflections came from this product...

Just click on the image to check it out in my store

Until next time...

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