How Schools Benefit from Transformational Data
There’s a lot to be said for trusting your instinct – unless you’re trying to lead educational change. Then you need concrete data for your decision-making. Data decisions impact every facet of education, from curriculum development to program evaluation.
Schools collect more than academic data on their students. Learning management systems and databases help them compile information related to student health, family culture, and community involvement. State and federal agencies require much of the data reporting, but the real power of data lies in its ability to transform schools.
The administration provides the infrastructure for data collection; teachers make it happen.
Best practices for data collection and analysis
Most educators recognize the value of measuring student achievement and growth. Even with the best of intentions to use data for decision-making, teachers can quickly become overwhelmed unless the school develops practices around its use.
Strategies for collecting and analysis
The American Association of School Administrators recommends implementing the following strategies for collectiion and analysis.
· Train your faculty. While most teachers have had training in data analysis, they appreciate the opportunity to learn about the data you are asking them to collect and analyze. Give teachers time to learn how programs evaluate academic progress and the best practices in analyzing the generated data.
· First things first. Even if you could measure everything at once, you shouldn’t. Instead target the one area needing the most help, preferably a core subject like reading.
· Start small. Determine what should be collected, how often and from whom. Chunk the learning and data collecting in small batches so teachers have time to learn, practice, and internalize. Even though your data collection systems may generate a plethora of data, avoid the temptation to review everything at once.
· Focus on the big picture. It’s easy to get lost in the minutia. Instead, work from the whole before drilling down to the specific.
· Teach data interpretation. Teachers aren’t the only ones who need to how to interpret results. Parents, the community, and the media must be able to understand what the data means. They’ll be interested in big-picture data that indicates overall school performance. By teaching what the data means, and how you’re using it for transformative change, there is less likelihood of misinterpretation.
Most importantly, when collecting your data, build a community of trust. Using data results as a punitive measure can destroy the school culture and alienate your teachers. Ultimately, blaming and recrimination create a reluctance in teachers to talk about or share data.
It’s all about the team
Once teachers understand how the data will be collected and interpreted, it’s time to get out of their way.
Distribute leadership opportunities among teacher teams to develop a common goal in improving instruction. When the teachers analyze their own data, they take ownership of their decisions about instructional changes. They also are in a position to adjust instruction more quickly because they are on top of the data. Teachers know right away if something is working, or if they need to make changes.
School transformation is the result of carefully executed data collection and analysis. With the right plan in place, you can improve program quality.