Monday, April 8, 2013

Managing Data to Improve Your School

When I was a principal I often thought I was drowning in data and I was. Lots of data in the form of reports and spreadsheets came across my desk. What was often missing was the time to take that data and turn it into useful information, information that could be used to shape and guide our school improvement efforts.

I've written about turning data into information and worked with principals and their school improvement teams on doing just that. Recently my colleague Barbara Blackburn and I wrote a blog post for Eye on Education that discussed four steps to manage data. Each step is discussed on some depth in the blog and in Rigorous Schools and Classrooms: Leading the Way. But here's a quick summary.
  • Step 1 - Be Clear About What You Want to Know - rather than generally talking about use of data, identify some questions that you would like to answer. That can help clarify the task.
  • Step 2 - Decide How to Collect the Data - You may already have lots of data but you may want other forms of information. Spend some time thinking about the multiple measures you will use to answer your questions.
  • Step 3 - Analyze the Data - Too often insufficient time is allowed to review the data, look for gaps, and get different points-of-view. I always liked to have several people, in several different roles, look at the data with me. These multiple perspectives almost always led to a more thoughtful analysis.
  • Step 4 - Set Priorities and Goals Based on the Data - Make sure you do something with the information you put together. Use the analysis to shape and guide your goals and areas of focus. Often, this will lead you right back to gathering even more data about your school's improvement.
I'd enjoy hearing from you about how you use data to guide your school's improvement.

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