panning for goldBuilding Partnerships:
Transforming Learning through Data-Driven Collaborations

Like panning for gold, the school library media specialist must collaborate with teachers and administrators to sift through tons of data to discover the "nuggets" that will address the needs of learners. This session focuses on strategies for building collaborative relationships and developing effective, evidence-based programs that increase student achievement.


By combining data about "how students are progressing" and the wealth of resources available through the school library media center along with a comprehensive information literacy program, the school library media specialist plays an essential role in promoting student achievement. The key to success is building partnerships with teachers and administrators to address the changing needs of learners.

Explore the Transforming Classrooms: Using Test Results to Enrich the Learning Environment WebQuest for step-by-step guidance through this process with lots of ideas.

As an individual you don't control the contents of the standards or tests, but you can have an impact on the results! Let's pan for gold!

Build Partnerships

The miners weren't the only ones involved with "finding the gold." Farmers, merchants, land owners, and many others made the gold rush possible. In the same way, everyone in the building must work together to find the gold. Seek out strategies for creating relationships. It's not always easy. Consider how you can match your strengths with the needs and interests of your teachers.

Curriculum Leader. Connect quality resources and activities to specific curriculum needs. Not just the resource itself, but quality activities.

Information Scientist. Many of our students and teachers are technology literate, but are they information fluent?

  • Identify the fact, opinion, argument in a "letter to the editor".
  • Letters to the Editor from New York Times Learning Network

Resource Consultant. Many students and teachers prefer to "google" than carefully select the best resource for the job. Promote a variety of resources from books and videos to web resources and videos. Place emphasis on addressing different intelligences through a variety of materials. For example, audiobooks promote oral fluency. They're also a great tool for reluctant readers and those who spend time in the car or bus.

Technology Specialist. Encourage the use of a variety of communication tools from blogs for journaling to video information dissemination.

Literature Specialist. Contribute your knowledge of literature and reading.

Digital Developer. Share your expertise as a website developer.

community projectCommunity Collaborator. Facilitate activities with community resources such as the public library, museums, nature centers, government resources, and online resources to build "real world" connections to subject areas. For example, the photo on the right shows one of many community members participating in a community development project that involved Indiana students sharing their work. The students, teachers, library media specialist, and community members collaborated to make the project a success.

"Big Picture" Thinker. You have a cross-curricular perspective unlike anyone else in your building. Help teachers see connections among standards across content areas. Build relationships between language arts and math/science/social studies and information skills.

  • Use Biography Maker to create powerful projects that incorporate information skills as well as language arts and other subjects.

Are you perceived as a proactive member of the learning community or as a passive observer? Explore ways to actively build diverse partnerships.

Pick the Stream

Before you can pan for gold, you need to pick the best stream. Consider all the places where you could find quality information about student performance and the learning environment. While standardized tests provide one source of information, the school library media specialist has access to other evidence that can assist in making data-driven decisions about teaching, learning, and the school library media center.

Identify Performance Gaps. What specific performance gaps can be identified using standardized test data?

Data About Students

Compare Alternative Assessments. How are multiple measures used to get a broad picture of student performance? Are these alternative measures effective in bridging standards and standardized test items?

  • Do rubrics match the standards and standardized test questions?
  • Do checklists accurately reflect the rigor of standardized test items?
  • Do scored discussions adequately assess student understandings?

Analyze Use of the Collection. Is the collection being used effectively to address the learning needs and performance gaps of students?

  • Are third graders reading biographies?
  • Are fourth graders using your nonfiction history collection effectively?
  • Are freshman reading books from the science collection?
  • Are juniors reading using the Opposing Viewpoints electronic database?

Assess Student Information Fluency. Are students able to apply information skills across the curriculum to address their learning needs?

  • Are students able to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information, distinguish fact from opinion, and sequence events?

Examine Individual Differences. Can performance gaps be associated with specific learning styles, background experiences, or other data that can help focus revised instruction? How can we reach all children, not just the low or middle group?

  • What correlations should be considered? For example, why do boys or girls do better or worse in some areas?

Data About Learning Environment

10,000 Days of Thunder by Philip CaputoMap the Collection. What resources do we have? Learn more about collection mapping at SLMS at

  • We have many fiction (The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963) and nonfiction (A Dream of Freedom) resources on the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s/70s, but very little on the Vietnam War era for middle school students. We need to look at the curriculum and the test data before we jump into the purchase of additional materials in this area.

Connect Collection and Curriculum Mapping. How does the collection reflect the needs of the curriculum?

  • Not just "more" nonfiction. We need nonfiction at the 4-6 reading level or nonfiction to help students draw conclusions.
  • Students need to understand the sequence of the Vietnam War, the politics and who was involved. They also need to be able to analyze primary source documents and materials from the period. Suggested resources: 10,000 Days of Thunder, Eyewitness: Vietnam War, Veteran's History Project.

Integrate Information Resources and Technologies. How are resources and technologies being integrated into learning experiences?

  • Students need to see the world through the eyes of others. They can use the Internet as a tool for learning about people who experienced the Vietnam War Era. They can use video technology to record oral histories.

Infuse Information Skills. How are information skills woven throughout the curriculum?

  • Overlap information skills with Social Studies and Language Arts connected with the Vietnam War. For example, students need to be able to make comparisons, distinguish fact from opinion, and draw conclusions. They need to be able to create oral histories including asking good questions, conducting an interview, and interpreting the results.

Address Performance Gaps. How can the teaching and learning environment be enriched to address performance gaps?

  • There's not much time to study the Vietnam War. Consider a project that compares other wars with more recent wars (Current Army Photos) and involves oral histories student collect.
  • Many quality visuals are available. Consider a focus on "Teaching With Documents: Photographs."

Pan for Gold

You have to sift through lots of dirt to find the gold. Just like finding "fool's gold," it's easy to misinterpret the data.

Disaggregating the data involves breaking down the test results and looking for patterns such as grade level, gender, race, or socioeconomic level. It also involves comparing performance on different items related to the same standard.

Before you make changes … where’s the problem?

  • Is the problem with the questions, content understanding, or a “thinking” issue?
  • Is the issue with the textbook, teaching techniques, resources, practice, application?
  • What kinds of activities will get at the bigger issue, even if the resources and questions are different next time?

Determine if there's an issue with this particular test:

  • Look at all items related to standard, it may be a problem with a single item
  • Look at the item format and directions, it might be confusion over item layout, order of items, directions
  • Look at the item content, it might be a misunderstanding (i.e., cultural, regional, experiences, vocabulary)
  • Look at the item and the standard, it might be a different interpretation of the standard
  • Talk with students, determine if students didn’t know it, or just couldn’t apply it in this situation (i.e., they know “about poetry” but don’t understand the question about a particular type of poetry technique)

Determine if there's an issue with particular learners. Possible problems:

  • couldn't read, hear, or write well-enough to express understanding
  • couldn’t transfer knowledge to new situation
  • students with a particular learning style didn't do as well
  • connected with grade level, gender, race, socioeconomic

Determine if there's an issue with teaching strategies or instructional materials. Possible problems:

  • instructional approach weren't effective
  • instructional materials weren't effective
  • classroom assessments weren't effective
  • examples or context was lacking
  • test didn’t reflect your interpretation of the standard
  • missed the match between standard, instruction, classroom assessment, and test
  • didn’t address a learning style need

Fool's Gold

  • Failure to see the real problem - address lack of poetry experience; when really a reading problem
  • Over compensate - emphasize filling out forms; not on test next year
  • Select the wrong solution - change the class assessments; still not learning
  • May not succeed - try a new approach to "main idea"; doesn't work
  • Misinterpret cause/effect or correlation - boys do poorly, so reteach; maybe they were just uninterested in test topic

Where's the solution? What kinds of activities will get at the bigger issue, even if the resources and questions are different next time?

  • Choose what will work for you
  • Try a different approach since the other one didn't work
  • Refine classroom assessment (i.e., be sure rubrics match standards)
  • Focus on what you do well and begin reaching beyond the basics
  • Focus on needs of middle and upper kids. When do we move on?

Find the Nuggets

You can be driven crazy by the detail of data-driven decisionmaking. Instead, look for those things that will have a real impact. Media specialist can focus on the “big ideas” that cross curriculum areas while addressing information skills.

  • Identify the specific standard, then step back and look for the general thinking skill (i.e., compare, persuade, conclude) associated with it. What specific skills as well as essential questions are being addressed? What things are difficult to master across content areas?
  • Develop focused lessons that involve well-structured activities, incorporate specific resources, elicit high-level thinking, and contain detailed assessment.

A Dozen Nuggets

Try a dozen innovative ways to address these "big impact" nuggets!

1 - Identify main idea

  • Pick out the important events in fiction and nonfiction.
  • Examine book covers. Discuss why a particular image might be used. Ask students to select a photograph that represents the main idea in a scientific discovery or historical event. Explain why you think it represents the main idea and why it should be used on the cover of a book on this topic.
  • Every Picture Tells a Story

2- Identify relationships and make connections

  • Connect to other books by the same author, connect content areas, content to other authors.
  • Compare characters from different books
  • Use Inspiration to show connections
  • Use literature circles to address different reading levels
  • Themes and Literature Circles from
  • Inspiration - comparison chart

3 - Sequence events

  • Order the events in fiction and nonfiction using visuals, timelines, graphic organizers, and lists. Retell a story.
  • Write a new story with the same plot and different characters or setting. For example, change the time period.
  • Timeliner

4 - Identify details

  • Look for details by examining events in stories, dialog between characters, illustrations, and word clues.
  • Look for details in three different visuals (i.e., paintings, photographs, portraits) of the same person, place, thing, or event. Compare the details.
  • Listen for details in audio recordings. Check out the NPR podcast directory.

5 - Distinguish fact from opinion

6 - Identify cause and effect

  • Use templates in Kidspiration to develop basic chain of events.

7 - Compare and contrast viewpoints

  • Compare interpretations of key events through different eyes
    • How did the Civil War impact us in Savannah, GA?
    • What did people talk about during the Civil War?
    • What were the perspectives of specific people? Why did they have these views?
    • What information do newspaper editorials and other primary resources provide about different perspectives?
    • Dinner Party - Savannah

8 - Defend a position

  • Ask students to defend the resources they select including websites, videos, books, and other information resources. Ask them to write about why they selected some resources and rejected others.
  • Write It Essay from Scholastic: Persuasive Essay

9 - Identify the problem and solution

  • Describe, act out, or diagram the problem faced by the character, famous person, scientist, historian, etc..
  • Describe, act out, or diagram the solution chosen, then describe alternative solutions, other endings, or other opportunities that could have been considered.
  • Use the video recorder on your still video camera to recorder short, alternative solutions to a problem. For example, short different examples of static electricity.

10 - Make predictions

  • Predict the story line based on the title, cover, pictures, and description of a book.
  • Use a blog to predict what will happen in the next chapter of the book. Ask one student to synthesize the postings and compare them with the actual chapter.
  • Looking for ideas? Go to Scholastic and do a search for "predict".

11 - Make inferences

12 - Draw conclusions

  • Describe how a story will end.
  • Use engaging reading materials such as Marvel Comics.

Lead Effective, Evidence-based Programs

Apply scientifically-based evidence

Learn from the research and experiences of those who came before you.

Stress meta-cognitive activities

Our students must be leaders and take responsibility for their own learning
To be life long learners, they must understand their learning needs and address their own challenges. We can’t do it for them! However, we can be collaborators

    • Monitoring their blogs and journals
    • Facilitating question development
    • Scaffolding their experiences
    • Guiding their learning

Promote learning teams

Provide support for student learning.

Promote authentic resources

Provide access to engaging, authentic resources.

Encourage interdisciplinary, diverse resource approaches that address multiple standards

  • Literature circles - historical fiction (social studies connection), environment fiction (science connection)
  • The Great Gatsby blog

Seek long-term solutions rather than quick fixes.

  • Miners sometimes trash the environment only to regret it later.

Use your unique position

  • All students and often teachers want is the answer… but the answer won’t help when the questions change!!! Or, the tests change. We’re the ones that can see that “big picture in the school!”

Collaboration is the key

  • The merchants were the most successful! Sell your skills and resources!


Developed by Annette Lamb, 11/05.