Before Using Data begins to work with a group of data teams, we always meet first with the superintendent and central office staff to learn about their context.  We highlight for them the decisions and priorities that need to be established to support teachers through the process. The questions go like this:

  1. Where does Using Data fit in the district’s school improvement process and other initiatives on the table?  (We look for the intersections and opportunities for thoroughly integrated Using Data into the existing fabric of schools’ work and priorities.)
  2. How will schools be supported in getting access to the data they will need? (What data systems are in place? Who has access at what level? Who will respond to requests for specific types of data as they are needed?)
  3. Are school building administrators on-board? (Without the principal being engaged in the process, data teams will struggle to act on their findings.)
  4. What staff are ideally situated to facilitate the work of grade level or content area data teams? (Literacy or math coaches? Instructional Specialists? Grade level team leaders? Organizing the teams and finding the right people to facilitate the work of the team is a critical part of the implementation process. Build on existing team structures so that you’re not introducing yet another strand of work for teachers.)
  5. Do school and district schedules support a weekly meeting for instructional teams to analyze data? How are in-service days used?

Each of the questions above reveals a great deal of useful information and the opportunity to explore each area in depth. While some areas can be addressed immediately, a few require more time for trying new strategies to address the needs. One county school district worked for three years to implement a schedule that extended the school day by 20 minutes for 4 days of the week. This change made it possible to have a half-day schedule one day per week.  Perseverance paid off.