How School Administrators Use Data Determines Success
Ask a school principal what kinds of data his or her school collects on the students enrolled there, and the instructional leader may recite a long list of programs in the core subjects from which to gather information on student performance.
Combine these results with attendance and behavior, and you’ll have a comprehensive picture of every child on the campus – hopefully.
Data drives our schools, but it’s supposed to do more than measure student progress. When used appropriately, data improves instruction. School leaders who use data effectively analyze their data by subgroup, share results, and can seek further professional development marked by student need.
Data analysis is a continuous process. Relying on summative assessment data for decision-making is less effective than formative assessment.
Analyzing student data by subgroup can be revealing, and school administrators who are not evaluating the subgroup achievement may be doing their students a disservice. First, subgroup analysis allows administrators to make sure all student populations are achieving at the same rates. There should be no gaps in achievement, with one group achieving more than another.
Bias can show up in race, gender, disability, and across special programs. Implicit bias, in particular, can impact student achievement. Unless school leaders confront assumptions and use programs that don’t create bias, they may be unintentionally widening the learning gap.
If administrators do find gaps, the data may reveal bias in data collection and interpretation. It’s critical for principals to look for possible bias, especially if student demographics have changed or if the school has implemented a new initiative.
Isolation vs. shared findings
The data you collect shouldn’t be the best-kept secret at your school, but some administrators review the data and toss it aside to wait for the next data retrieval in the hopes of making a comparison regarding student achievement and teacher efficacy.
As more states allow for school choice, parents look for schools that stand out from the others. How you use and share student achievement data tells parents that your school focuses on results, and every student matters to you as much as the child matters to their parents.
Communication is the key ingredient in family involvement in schools, and by helping parents understand their child’s academic data, you’re not only creating a connection with the family, but also providing concrete evidence of growth.
Reaching out to parents with interpretive data may be what helps them choose your school over another.
Using data for professional development
Eliminating bias and sharing achievement results are only part of the data analysis process. Data analysis determines further training needs.
No teacher has all the answers when it comes to instructional delivery. Every group of students presents a new set of challenges, and every year, educators are learning more about teaching.
The data they collect indicates what further help students require. School leaders must recognize that helping students means supporting teachers. Formative assessment results can reveal areas in which to meaningful change, and that change begins with giving teachers the foundation they need.
Schools will always collect data. The most effective schools, however, will use their data to eliminate bias, communicate with students and parents, and further the skills of teachers.