Research summaryApart from public relations and accountability issues (which are not insubstantial), educators have come to recognize that they can no longer rely on "intuition, tradition, or convenience" in making decisions. Schools across the country are realizing that thoughtfully collected and analyzed data represent the key to improvements in education.
What are the educational uses of data?When systematically collected and analyzed, data provide an accurate way of identifying problem areas in school programs. Data reveal strengths' and weaknesses in students' knowledge and skills, and provide meaningful guidance on how teaching practices can and should be altered. Once improvement strategies are underway, educators can continue to analyze the data to monitor and refine their efforts.
From a wider perspective, data can provide an "honest portrayal of the district's and school's climate" (NCREL, 2000). Data can give a clear profile of a district and the schools within it - who are our students, teachers and families? What trends, attitudes and values do they exhibit?
What types of data are most useful?The profile of a school can include at least four types of data:
How can a school begin using data?The process of using data must be supported by as many faculty members as possible. Inquiry should grow out of a common recognition of the potential benefits statistical data can have in helping to achieve common goals.
Data analysis can be used at various levels within the school - individual teachers, groups of faculty, or entire school.
Educational reform through data analysis generally involves four steps:
How can administrators overcome barriers and help their schools use data effectively?Principals and other administrators can best support data-driven reform processes by providing vision and leadership. Although they need not be proficient themselves in sophisticated data-gathering and analysis techniques, they should be acquainted with the field and should respect and value data analysis as an increasingly important tool in education.
What results can be expected from data inquiry and analysis?When properly focused and implemented, data analysis is one tool that can help raise educational achievement, thereby increasing confidence among faculty, students and the community.
In learning to incorporate data analysis as a regular part of their professional activity, teachers become more reflective and less reactive. As a whole, the school assumes a more professional and civil culture of inquiry, in which "teachers share with each other important questions and ideas related to teaching and learning" (Feldman & Tung, 2001).
Through program improvements brought about by data analysis, a higher level of achievement can also be expected of students.
Adapted from DATA INQUIRY AND ANALYSIS FOR EDUCATIONAL REFORM, ERIC Digest 153 (December 2001).
ReferencesBernhardt, V. L. (2000). New routes open when one type of data crosses another. Journal of Staff Development, 21 (1).
Calhoun, E.F. (1994). How to use action research in the self-renewing school. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Chrispeels, J.H. (2000). School leadership teams: A process model of team development. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 11(1), 20-56.
Du, Y. & Fuglesten, L. (2001). Beyond test scores: Edina public schools' use of surveys to collect school profile and accountability data. ERS Spectrum, 20-25.
Feldman, J. & Tung, R. (2001). Using data-based inquiry and decision making to improve instruction. ERS Spectrum, 10-19.
Holcomb, E. (1999). Getting excited about data: How to combine people, passion and proof. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Killion, J. & Bellamy, G.T. (2000). On the job: Data analysts focus school improvement efforts. Journal of Staff Development, 21(1).
McLean, J. E. (1995). Improving education through action research: A guide for administrators and teachers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Miller, A.C. (2000). School reform in action. Paper presented to the American Educational Research Association Conference, New Orleans, LA.
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. (2000). Using data to bring about positive results in school improvement efforts. Oakbrook, IL: Author.
Sparks, D. (2000). Results are the reason. Journal of Staff Development, 21(1).
Wade, H.W. (2001). Data inquiry and analysis for educational reform. ERIC Digest 153. Eugene, OR: Clearinghouse on Educational Management.