What are we doing right? What can we do better? These are strategic questions that great schools and school leaders ask throughout the year at all levels and departments. School data is essential to answering these questions because they provide a way of measuring and documenting results. However, schools must be careful when taking a “data deep dive”. Familiarity with using data and competency in data analysis are keys to avoiding misinformation or misuse of the results.

         A school needs to conduct data meetings regularly to create and/or revise strategic plans based on the information gathered. These plans should have both short-term and long-term goals embedded. Once analysis and planning has been created, the data should be shared and presented at meetings pertaining to the topic, such as school improvement meetings, board meetings, faculty meetings, team meetings, individual staff meetings and school leadership meetings. Data should not just be in the hands of the principal, but available to all stakeholders. It is important to note that schools should offer extensive training on data analysis and what it looks like in that school/school district so everyone is on the same page and can confidently discuss information at the appropriate level needed to set goals and execute plans. 

         When analyzing school data, utilizing a variety of graphics and visuals can provide clarity to the reader(s). Data analysis software and related tools are used for fact-checking and organization and help with understanding the information. You can also keep data meetings on track and aligned with “Red, Yellow, and Green” instructions. Find three green, “good-to-go” areas to celebrate and continue. Then, find three red, “stop and reflect” areas of improvement. Lastly, find three yellow, “cautious/approaching” areas to works towards moving into the green area. When everyone knows how to read the data and what results need to be produced, strategic planning and goal setting can take place quickly and effectively.

Data can and should be gathered from numerous areas, not just student assessments. Here are some ways in which schools can collect data:

    •  Pulse-Checks/Surveys- parents, students, faculty and staff (These surveys can be refined into areas such as school culture, safety, facilities, administration, staff/support staff, and special/student services)
    •  Grade Levels and/or Subject Areas
    •  Discipline/Behavioral Models/Social-Emotional Learning
    •  Financials
    •  Departmental
    •  Technology
    •  Curriculum/Programming/Instruction
    •  Social Media/Marketing
    •  Admissions and Enrollment

         There is a difference between schools using to data to guide instruction, and schools using data to drive instruction, and that is the overall influence that data has on a process. A school using data to guide instruction relies on data as a support tool in decision-making and is balanced with other related factors such as feedback, expertise, students’ needs, etc. while a school using data to drive instruction uses data as the main focus in making proactive decisions. For these schools, data has patterns, trends, and insight that influence practices and procedures and help with achieving the best results. 

         The more a school/school leader(s) know(s) about and can inform stakeholders of the operations, strengths, and areas of refinement, the better the strategic planning and alignment to the mission and vision. Now more than ever, working with data is crucial to planning for future growth and development.

Brianne Hudak, Educational Consultant