During an EdWeek webinar entitled “Building a District Data Culture,” I had the pleasure of discussing the hallmarks of a strong data culture with two leaders from Sarasota County, Florida School District: Sue Meckler, Director of Middle School Education, and Heather Wasserman, Assistant Principal of Sarasota’s Laurel Nokomis School.
Sarasota County is the gold standard when it comes to scaling a data-driven approach to learning across an entire district. (Sarasota County School District has 53 schools, 43,000 students, and 2,750 teachers, so developing and implementing a new approach to learning was no easy feat.)
As I interviewed Meckler and Wasserman and heard their responses to participants’ questions, I was struck over and over again by how passionately they spoke about data as a tool to help all their students grow. Too often, data is seen just as numbers on a spreadsheet, but Meckler and Wasserman knew from experience that those numbers can have an enormous impact when you turn them into insights to help teachers help students. I’m sharing the six hallmarks of a successful data culture we covered in the webinar here.
Hallmark #1: Be Transparent*
Embrace data as “ours” by being open about assessments and data. Sharing testing schedules, assessment details (e.g., what’s being assessed, results, responses [as available]), and data analysis fosters open collaboration and decision-making. Leaders can support transparency by setting expectations for how assessment information and data will be used and communicated and by supporting teachers as they implement these best practices.
*Students’ personal information should never be shared.
Hallmark #2: Schedule Time for Regular Data Use
Make time for regular data use in the schedule, including administering assessments, analyzing results (with the support of all stakeholders), monitoring progress and growth, adjusting instructional practices, and using data to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of instruction and interventions. Leaders support regular data use by dedicating time in the schedule for teachers to analyze their data and adjust instructional priorities on an ongoing basis.
Hallmark #3: Infuse a Data-Driven Mindset into School Practices
Use data to guide decisions at all levels (leader to teacher, teacher to teacher, and teacher to student). Allow data-driven instruction to influence yearlong and day-to-day policies and practices (e.g., resource allocation, scheduling, conferences, instructional planning and delivery, professional learning communities) to achieve your learning goals. Leaders serve as champions of change by clearly communicating district and/or school goals and modeling a data-driven mindset in their own decision-making.
Hallmark #4: Involve All Stakeholders in Striving for Growth
Actively discuss growth as the measure of success and make it visible. Invest your school community in data-driven practices by communicating information about assessments, results, and data-driven action steps. Involve all stakeholders in planning and decision-making to help every student achieve growth. Make growth goals visible and track progress in a transparent way, celebrating success and providing targeted support where needed.
Hallmark #5: Take an Intentional, Structured Approach to Differentiation and Remediation
Use a data-driven approach to identify students who may need more support or enrichment and develop corresponding instructional plans. Leaders support teachers to prioritize students for differentiation and plan instruction.
Hallmark #6: Provide Support and Professional Development
Use data to target staff support and resources. Both teachers and leaders should continuously strengthen their data practice and data-driven instruction. Leaders support teachers in learning how to use data by selecting and scheduling professional development topics strategically and participating alongside teachers.
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