At SXSWedu 2017, leaders from three districts shared how they are leveraging data to improve instruction and outcomes for students.
We stopped by a great session at SXSWedu this year called Data Coaches: A Strategy for Change on the topic of data analytics in education. The session was moderated by Rebecca Marshall of the Harvard Center for Education Policy Research and featured Michael Lamont, Executive Director of the Data & Information Group at Atlanta Public Schools (GA), Alyssa Reinhart, Senior Data Analyst for Syracuse City School District (NY), and Jing Che, Senior Research Analyst for Rochester City School District (NY). Each panelist shared how their district is leveraging data to improve instruction and outcomes for students.
Atlanta Public Schools has created a Data and Information Group, and assigns a data strategist to each Associate Superintendent and all of their principals. Data strategists must have many skills: data analysis, tech development (to create dashboards), and the ability to translate the data and its impact to school leaders. APS tracks a variety of data points beyond just state assessment scores, including early development, teacher effectiveness, school climate, and more. They share public data on their blog at http://apsgraphs.blogspot.com.
Syracuse City School District had a need for data coaches who would be able to translate the analysis for educators in terms they could understand and put into practice. They decided to train some select in-house staff members to increase their data literacy. These Data Coaches create data memos for schools and meet with principals to discuss and to build a data-based goal and progress monitoring plan. Principals then present their plans to the district.
Rochester City School District is one of the "Big 5" urban districts in New York state, with the highest poverty rate and lowest test performance of the group. Their Data Coaches, who are each assigned to specific schools, get summer training on how to hold data discussions with educators. Meetings have a 6-10 week cycle and Data Coaches keep logs on what is discussed and planned. An annual evaluation report on the Data Coaching program found significant improvement in teacher performance scores after having these data discussions.
Creating a Strategy for Data-Driven Change
As you can see, each district has their own unique approach to using data to improve instruction and reach their specific goals. The important thing to consider when creating your own strategy is whether you can effectively analyze and apply the data in a meaningful way. There's a lot of data out there - and it can be overwhelming! - so identifying which data points warrant in-depth analysis and what resulting actions you can take to drive better outcomes is key.
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