California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II

Lead data analysis

Teaching teams can use educational data (from common assessments, state tests, demographics, and surveys) as a powerful tool to improve student learning, or they can see it as a bureaucratic task that eats their time. Principals and district leaders who lead their teams to use data effectively will not only improve student achievement but staff morale as well.

According to Gaining Traction, Gaining Ground, effective principals

. . . tend to be hands-on when it comes to analyzing data. They use data to actively supervise and oversee teacher and student performance. Principals institute formal methods of analyzing data with teachers to determine course content, strengths and weaknesses. Principals may review each student’s transcripts to ensure correct placement or to recognize students who have improved performance.1

According to a study published by The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement, there are several ways that leaders can help school teams use data effectively:

  • Use data coaches (on-site colleagues who have special training to analyze and interpret data and its application to instruction).
  • Provide better training.
  • Address fears about how administrators will use data results for staff evaluations. (For example, the leader establishes a culture where team members use data objectively for improvement and not for evaluation of classroom practice.)
  • Model a positive attitude about the use of data for school improvement.
  • Provide sufficient time.2

In the Spotlight

Carlsbad Unified School District, San Diego County
Carlsbad Unified School District has embraced data driven decision making, effectively incorporating technology to manage and analyze student data—including academic and attendance information. Data analysis is only the beginning of the data cycle, however. Once results have been obtained from data analysis, information is used to determine what resources are needed to best meet student needs. SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) goals are used at the district and site levels to design and target interventions that will make a difference at the student level. Individual student progress is tracked and measured over time. Data are shared with site professional learning community teams who use the information to create common assessments focused on California Standards Tests (CST) outcomes. Teachers are provided with early release one day a week to review student work and student data in grade level teams. The district is seeing results through an increase in overall Academic Performance Index.

A study about data use in high schools highlights effective practices that are applicable to middle schools as well. The four-year study tracked improvements in the low-performing schools that resulted from better data analysis. For example, the study suggests the following practices will lead to school improvement:

  • Provide timely data in an easily accessible format.
  • Establish structures that encourage and support data use.
  • Encourage a culture of questioning.
  • Ensure adequate teacher professional development.
  • Demonstrate leadership in using data.3

The Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership (TICAL) Web site features new tools for administrators on Radio TICAL. One of their February 2008 podcasts was about the Program Improvement Resources developed by CTAP Region IV and Regional System of District and School Support (RSDSS) to assist school data teams in analyzing both STAR and benchmark exams.

Ensure availability of instructional resources

Hold teachers accountable

1 Gaining Traction, Gaining Ground How Some High Schools Accelerate Learning for Struggling Students (Outside Source). Washington, D.C.: The Education Trust. 2005, 31.
2 Using Data: The Math’s Not the Hard Part, (PDF; Outside Source), Craig D. Jerald, The Center Issue Brief, September 2006.
3 Research Brief: Practices That Support Data Use in Urban High Schools, (PDF; Outside Source), Learning Point Associates for The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement, October 2006.

Back to Top