When we have those initial conversations with district and school administrators about the capacity of their schools to analyze their data, we often get responses that taken at face value, would indicate that their teachers are analyzing data and have a lot of experience using that data to make decisions.

We always follow-up by asking, if they are getting the results they want? And the response is typically, “no”. We probe more to learn where their achievement gaps are, what areas of curriculum and instruction gaps are they identifying.

Long story short, when we begin to work with their data teams, using our structured process for analyzing data, we see teachers “seeing” the data as if it was the first time. The level of dialogue, even with what we consider to be a very thin slice of data, is awe inspiring as teachers’ experience, knowledge, and assumptions come to the surface and are thoughtfully examined in the light of evidence.

Simple fact. Giving every teacher a binder filled with data reports consisting of long tables of numbers or colorful graphs and putting up a slide show that highlights what the administrator has seen in the results, isn’t real data analysis. It’s a data blur, like seeing a fast-paced trailer of an upcoming movie. You see the biggest crashes or funniest sketches but you don’t see the build? (My apology for that word “build” but I’m not a movie critic, so I don’t know how they would describe the way a story develops and comes together.)

In data analysis, getting to the “build” is what enables data teams to “create shared meaning” of the data in front of them. If we don’t accomplish this in our data team meetings, we’re just seeing the trailer, not the movie.