If you are a principal working under the leadership of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, then you are expected to have certain leadership competencies as delineated in the Professional Standards for Principals.
Reading through the competencies that principals in ADEC are expected to possess, it is easy to notice the significant role of data use.The word data is used 9 times and the word database is used 2 times. The word decision is used 6 times. The words uses evidence is used once.
If we take a closer look at the way in which the word data is used, we find the following phrases:
- gathers analyses and interprets data
- improving student achievement through use of quality data
- using assessment data (EMSA to plan relevant teaching programs)
- ensures consistent and school-wide focus on student achievement, using data and benchmarks to monitor progress of each student’s learning
- uses assessment data as a tool to inform teaching
- Access, analyze and interpret student data
- involves staff in the analysis and interpretation of data
- there is a data base of current and previous student analysis
- there is an action plan for students based on the data analysis
There is no doubt in reading this 27-page document that ADEC is serious about principals making decision through the systematic use of data in their schools. In focusing on these 9 points, we can conclude that school leaders in Abu Dhabi will engage in data-based decision making with their faculty to improve teaching and learning. If this is so, then the leadership will create information flow through a school – In some places, this is called data-driven instructional systems.
There has been some excellent research on these processes in schools. Educational researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, University of Louisville, University of Wisconsin-Madison and others have examined what school leaders do for data-based decision making in successful schools. They found something interesting:
It is not about the data… it is about how the data gets used by educators!
For data in a school to have an effect on instruction, principals and teachers need to collaborate. Both principals and teachers need support to reduce the data so that they can work with it to understand what it means. They then need to collaborate in different interest groups to design the instructional changes that respond directly to the information.
Teachers are important because they push the data discussions to be about practical in-classroom teaching and learning strategies. Principals are more interested in school-level questions of student achievement that are more about the whole school. The combination is the most powerful way of improving the whole school!
In order for this kind of interaction to occur, key capacity building needs to support this internal school work. In addition, there are key technological supports that can facilitate the process. Ensuring the principals and teachers have these supports has proven to be highly effective in the final outcome: Better student learning and achievement.