As school self-evaluations take center stage when school improvement plans are being discussed and developed, data-based decision making takes on a critical role. Despite this increased attention, there seems to be a wide gap between understanding the significant role of data-based decision making and actually enacting the process in a school. This means that even though data-based decision making is a critical element to moving schools from acceptable to good, or good to outstanding, making it happen can be challenging. It requires careful consideration, a commitment to change, data literacy and a set of competencies in managing monitoring, evaluation and change.
In terms of what school leaders work, the expectation is that they will:
- understand the relationships between baseline data, goals, monitoring, assessment, network learning, and instructional changes;
- select key indicators of success for school and student progress;
- direct root cause analysis to identify appropriate interventions;
- use multiple measures and multiple indicators within measures ;
- use data to monitor instructional practices; and
- use data to identify problems in student learning;
Given this criteria for school leadership for using data to improve teaching practice, it is understandable that school leaders who are starting this process can feel overwhelmed. Especially since most educators and educational leaders do not necessarily have the background or training to engage in using data or systematic inquiry.
But the practical application of data-based decision making is not out of reach. There are schools who are successfully integrating the process into their working habits. The hardest part is starting the process and supporting leaders and teachers from feeling overwhelmed to actually working through the steps in the process.