Practical Tips on Using Data


Guest Blogger, Jennifer Ungermultiple pieces of large chart paper displaying data analysis that creates a hand-drawn data wall

When TERC’s Using Data facilitators work with schools and districts, we assist with establishing a continuous improvement culture that is grounded on collaborative inquiry. In the process, a lot of chart-paper-sized posters are created. There’s a sound and productive reason for this large-format paper trail!

Anyone who has engaged in data analysis with Using Data’s protocols and processes knows that we value public recording on chart paper because it gets everyone literally “on the same page” and talking together as they uncover learning challenges, own them, and identify strategic solutions. (more…)

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Ungermany colored 3-D question marks

I have worked with so many districts and schools where the leadership proudly points to their “data binders”—most recently I recall a three-inch D-ring binder. Not that binders filled with data aren’t helpful or good, but I caution that if they are not being used to guide instructional and programmatic decisions, well, then they can be a waste of precious time and money. More importantly, if they are not connected to a shared ownership of the questions a group of educators has about instruction and programs and similar concerns, then they can serve no meaningful purpose.

So how do we get from just having data to using data for meaningful change and improved results? (more…)

Guest Blogger: Jennifer UngerThe Word Leadership Highlighted in Dictionary with Yellow Marker Highlighter Pen.

In Part I*, I offered an insight to educational administrators about the merits of leaning on your busy people—those already involved in other school and district improvement efforts—as your data leaders. In Part 2, I share a few thoughts about the level of support a wise leader provides to ensure that these people are successful.

It’s spring, and a good time to take stock of how using data has informed practice and affected student achievement at your site since the school year began.

Earlier in the year, did you make the decision to integrate broadly-implemented data tools and processes into the assessment/evaluation plan for your school or district? If you have not yet formalized a using-data effort, should you?

As mentioned in Part 1, the first step is identifying the Data Coach and data team members. Some schools refer to these people as their improvement team or teams. Once in place, reflect on the level of support and direction you need to provide. Here are some possible questions and ideas to consider:

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 Guest Blogger: Jennifer Ungercalendar with many red tacks on one day

There’s a familiar saying, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” If comments I hear when working with educational leaders can be taken as evidence, then it’s true.

In order to use data for meaningful change, TERC’s Using Data project advocates the identification of a Data Coach to lead a Data Team or multiple Data Teams. When we talk with school leaders about who might best serve as a Data Coach or team member, I hear comments such as, “I really think Dana would be a great data leader (or team member), but she/he is already involved in so many initiatives.”

In my experience, wise leadership makes all the difference. Let’s explore this dilemma more deeply…

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Collaborative inquiry posters showing causal analysis based on San Mateo Elementary School data

Collaborative inquiry posters showing causal analysis based on San Mateo Elementary School data

The Data-Aware Principal: Reflection #1
Guest Blogger: Lindsay P. Sharp, Principal, San Mateo Elementary School, Duval County Public Schools, Jacksonville, FL

As a principal, it’s clear to me that I need to be data informed. My job depends on it—literally, since I am evaluated by my school’s achievement. More importantly, though, my heart depends on it—I am committed to seeing data not as just numbers, but connected to the success of the students and teachers in my school.

As the school’s leader, my thoughts turn to the best way to translate my own state of “data informed-ness” into meaningful action, and I have come to understand the key lies in putting my efforts into creating data leaders beyond the principal’s office. My Using Data colleagues are now in every classroom in my school! Accomplishing this level of a “using data school culture” depends on a process that involves professional development, support, and dedication over time. We work at it every day. (more…)

GUEST BLOGGER: Mary Anne Mather, Using Data Senior Facilitator & Social Media Liaison on Twitter & FaceBook

I was bolstered by this bit of news from Tennessee via Learning Forward about the efficacy of teacher teams that meet regularly to share data and strategies. The article is a sound-bite about the good news for student achievement in Wilson County that leaves me hungry for the details about how their meetings are structured,Three teachers collaborating in front of a large chart showing their school improvementy action plan what data they look at, and how that data inform practice. From the published results, they seem to have discovered the perfect storm where collaboration, data, and strategies/solutions meet to make a difference. I, for one—as a facilitator of processes to help conjure similar storms, applaud them!

But the news item also reminded me that there’s more to this kind of success than simply meeting as a team and sharing “what works.” (more…)

GUEST BLOGGER: Mary Anne Mather, Using Data Senior Facilitator & Social Media Liaison on Twitter & FaceBook

If you want to tap one of the most powerful uses of data, disaggregate! Disaggregation means looking at how specific subgroups perform. Typically, formal student achievement data come “aggregated,” reported for the population as a whole—the whole state, school, grade level, or class. Disaggregating can bring to light critical problems and issues that might otherwise remain invisible.

For example, one district’s state test data indicated that eighth-grade math scores steadily improved over three years. When the data team disaggregated those data, they discovered that boys’ scores improved, while girls’ scores actually declined.different colored stick figures sorted into color-coordinated groups Another school noticed increased enrollment in their after-school science club. However, disaggregated data indicated that minority students, even those in more advanced classes, weren’t signing up. These are just some of the questions that disaggregated data can help answer:

• Is there an achievement gap among different demographic groups? Is it getting bigger or smaller?

• Are minority or female students enrolling in higher-level mathematics and science courses at the same rate as other students?

• Are poor or minority students over-represented in special education or under-represented in gifted and talented programs? (more…)

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