Thoughtfully Using Data In District Decision-Making

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Reposted from Hanover Research:

Research shows that most data management systems for education function as either student information systems (which focus on the collection, organization, and management of student data) or learning management systems (which are used for planning, delivering and managing, tracking, and reporting learner events, programs, records, and training content). While in the past, districts have found basic student information systems sufficient to serve reporting and administrative purposes, in the current era of increased accountability, districts increasingly use student data to improve instruction and guide decision making. As such, leaders must adequately plan for data use, selectively choose data sets, and adequately train all data users.

Because districts increasingly collect student data to serve a variety of purposes, leaders may find the data collected for reporting purposes to be insufficient for guiding decisions on the district, school, and classroom levels. As research shows that there is often “a fundamental misalignment between the types of data that districts deem to be imperative for student achievement and the types of data that are being requested by the state for federal accountability purposes,” Closing the Gap suggests that districts choosing to collect additional categories of data consider restraints on data collection and the district’s ability to store and analyze data.

Research recommends districts develop a “data collection and use plan” for each type of data the district intends to evaluate. The data collection and use plan should include a description of the data, the source where the data is stored prior to the implementation of the new data collection system, the data extraction method and frequency of extraction, the “data owner” or “point of contact” responsible for that type of data, the groups that will use the data, and intended uses for the data once it has been collected. During the planning process, district leaders may also take careful steps to ensure stakeholders throughout all levels of the district have the tools and support to effectively use data.”

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