It’s no secret that data-driven decision making figures prominently in high-performing schools. What it entails and how to implement it successfully are the subjects of this report commissioned by the New Schools Venture Fund, a venture philanthropy firm working to improve and reform public education.

Researchers studied four high-performing elementary school systems, including charter schools run by charter management organizations (CMO) Aspire Public Schools and Achievement First. All schools embraced six key strategies for using data effectively:

  1. Building a firm foundation for data-driven decision making;
  2. Creating a data-use culture;
  3. Investing in a data management system;
  4. Selecting the most useful data;
  5. Building capacity for data-driven decision making within schools; and
  6. Analyzing and acting on data to improve outcomes (at the student, teacher and administrator levels).

As the report notes, “Performance-driven systems rely on a systematic approach to making continuous improvements--in particular, improvements to instruction to insure that all students are learning and progressing.”

High-performing schools in the study made data-use a “non-negotiable” for staff, and used performance data to change stubborn beliefs about students’ ability to succeed. Also critical was the collection and use of multiple data types--such as “trailing” data (the results of state assessments that measure past instruction), and “leading” data (short-cycle assessment results that measure current instruction). One district used both to align student grades on report cards with results on external state and national assessments.

While much of the report will seem intuitive to data-savvy educators, leaders in districts and schools still struggling to embrace data-driven practices (plenty in Ohio) will want to take a look. The report is available here.

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