Districts strive to ensure that programs and initiatives are effective in their specific context with their particular population of students and teachers. Districts need evidence not only to validate decisions but also to continuously assess and improve their programs. They must collect data to determine if a new program is improving outcomes for students, through measures like student learning, graduation rates, or attitudes and behaviors. For districts that have several innovative programs in place simultaneously, it can be difficult to break apart the data to figure out which interventions are helping move the needle. Finally, the outcomes districts are interested in can take a long time to yield results; districts are looking to collect more data points faster, in order to make timely decisions based on evidence. Not only do districts need accurate and timely data, but teachers need ongoing support in how to use the data to make decisions.
Educators responded this challenge is widespread
District leaders responded they experience this challenge often
Respondents reported this challenge is urgent
Ideas from the Field
- Districts acknowledge that this is one area that is constantly shifting, requiring districts to continuously ask new and different questions. One district described looking at data in both “objective and subjective” ways, while some districts also partner with external consultants or organizations, including local universities, to analyze and use data.
- Many districts work with internal evaluators or have full departments dedicated to research and evaluation. Some of these teams meet regularly with leadership or other district representatives to review data and make informed decisions about key initiatives.
Related Innovation Portfolios
Building a foundation for teachers to inform instruction with dataOperational Data Stores (ODS) allow districts to gather data from disparate sources in one location.- Stephenville Independent School District
Improving K-3 literacy with network improvement scienceRefining and strengthening structures to identify, test, adapt, and more fully implement evidence-based instructional practices- Sunnyside Unified School District
In the Words of District Staff
“I think teachers struggle with [data-informed decision-making]. A lot of people still have a difficult time figuring out what they're gonna do with that data and how they're gonna use it to drive their instruction.”
“We really try to look at data in a lot of different ways. Some of it's subjective, some of it's more objective....The hard part with a lot of those things is that it's hard to tell exactly what is causing the growth or gains of student achievement. Is it the new curriculum that we have in place, is it the PD and training the teachers have received in using a particular app or program, is it a program that we instituted...what exactly is it? I think we've got a lot of things going and so sometimes it's really hard to pinpoint any one thing and say, ‘Oh that's the reason why student scores are going up.”
Edtech Pilot Framework - This resource from Digital Promise provides an 8-step evidence gathering process, along with hundreds of free tools and resources to support educators to pilot programs, products, and strategies.
Data-Driven Decision Making - This five-part toolkit from CoSN strengthens district leaders' capacity to use educational data to improve instructional practice and student achievement.
Data-Driven Classroom - From ASCD, an introduction to data-driven educational decision-making.