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Turns out a chance to be first in the lunch line can be used to improve student performance

By Ralph Echtinaw

A new tactic to incentive punctuality and performance with TS Nurnberger Middle School students is making a difference, said Principal Steve Taylor.

It’s called a Data Wall and consists of three signs in the cafeteria that track attendance, missing assignments and passing percentages of sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

The attendance sign shows the percent of students in each class who didn’t miss school that week.

Data Wall

The Data Wall as of Friday, Feb. 14.

As the week goes on the percentage drops,” Taylor said via email. “As of now we do not count multiple absences in a week. For example, if we have 100 kids in 8th grade, and five miss one day, the percentage would be 95. If three of those kids missed one day and two kids miss three days it would still be 95 percent.”

The middle sign shows the number of missing assignments per class over the course of the current marking period. The number of completed assignments is about 14,000, Taylor said, putting things in perspective. “We are half way through the marking period, so (the number of missing assignments) will continue to grow.”

The third sign is passing percentage for each class; i.e. the number of students with one or more F grades divided by the total number of students in that grade. A student with two or more F grades only counts as one, like the absences. 

By displaying (the figures) we hope to create discussions and awareness amongst the students,” Taylor said via email. “This is already happening. I have observed students during lunch in the cafeteria pointing and talking with their friends. We hope this motivates them to do better academically.”

Students in the class with the best scores each week are released for lunch a few minutes early for a week. That might not sound like much of a reward, but it gets students in line at the cafeteria (or Main Street Pizza, Subway, etc.) before the rest of the students are released.

“We chose these data points to display because the kids have control over them, and I can monitor and update them frequently, allowing the kids to see them change,” Taylor said. “Hopefully for the better!”

The data wall is working in conjunction with the Second Step curriculum, which the middle school adopted in the 2018-19 school year. “The curriculum is designed to help students make appropriate social choices, manage their emotions and increase academic achievement,” Taylor said. “The data wall makes academic choices visual and creates a sense of community and teamwork. The whole grade is working towards a common goal or reward.”

The middle school currently serves 249 students. Of that number, 83 are sixth graders, 74 are seventh graders and 92 are eighth graders.

Taylor said he plans to update the Data Wall figures at least thrice a week.

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