From laying the foundation to creating the right culture, here's how to make sense of data
Research suggests that when principals work directly with teachers in explaining how and why they should use data to improve their instructional practices, the effect on student achievement is more than twice as powerful as any other leadership dimension.
Clearly, K-12 leaders hold the keys to data-driven improvement. And if they want to lead this practice effectively in their schools, they need to understand how to use data as a leadership tool.
According to Datrow, Park, and Wohlstetter, there are six key strategies that performance-driven schools and districts should follow if they want to use data to produce significant achievement gains. Let’s explore them.
1. Lay the foundation.
Just as a house won’t last without a solid foundation, school and district leaders must invest significant time and resources in building a solid foundation to support data-driven decision making if they want this practice to endure.
Laying the foundation for using data to drive continuous improvement involves setting specific, measurable performance goals at all levels of the organization (district, school, grade level, classroom, and student). It also means developing and implementing a cohesive curriculum that is consistent across all schools and is vertically aligned from one grade level to the next.
Only when there is a coherent, system-wide curriculum in place can educators begin to collect, analyze, discuss, and act on data that are comparable from one school and classroom to another.
2. Create a culture of data use.
Establishing a culture of data-driven improvement is essential in holding staff accountable for this change. District-level leaders must set clearly defined norms for data use and model them in their own day-to-day practices. Principals, in turn, are responsible for reinforcing those expectations in their buildings.
When everyone knows what is expected of them, and using data to drive continuous improvement becomes ingrained in the district’s DNA, then real change can happen.
3. Invest in data management systems.