Use of Data

photo of a laptop and several data charts drawn in chalk on a desk

The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Public School Initiatives (IPSI) has ample experience supporting teachers and leaders in analyzing data and using data to inform instructional decisions. This includes identifying assessment instruments (i.e., formative, summative, norm-referenced, criterion-referenced); interpreting data; setting goals; determining differentiated professional development needs; using data to plan whole-group, small-group, and individual learning; monitoring progress; and adjusting goals or actions. Since our inception, guiding leaders and teachers in using data has been a required support element. As Hargreaves and Fullan (2012) tell us, “In the end, it’s important to be informed by the evidence, not numbed by the numbers. Put the faces on data.”

Our comprehensive needs assessment plan mirrors the process of many organizations. We begin by analyzing formative and summative data both horizontally and vertically. Next, we identify areas of strength and need and identify possible root causes for areas of need. Then, goals are established. Finally, strategies are selected, implemented, monitored, and adjusted to demonstrate continuous progress. The process empowers teachers and leaders to work together and collaboratively devise a plan of action to increase student learning. Hargreaves and Fullan (2012) summarize this approach by saying, “Professional expertise is not just about having the evidence or being aware of it. It’s also about knowing how to judge the evidence and knowing what to do with it.”

Use of Data customized professional development includes the items below.

Comprehensive Needs Assessment

“New challenges require new solutions, and even old challenges can only be overcome by taking a fresh look at them.”

(Houston, 2007)

IPSI offers support and guidance in conducting comprehensive needs assessments at the district and school levels. The process includes gathering and analyzing data to understand the scope of needs and to develop and/or refine action plans. Support is also provided in prioritizing and designing an implementation plan for areas that are in need of improvement. Following the comprehensive needs assessment, the district or school is provided with a targeted and customized course of action based on identified priorities.

Curriculum Auditing

"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."

(Ben Franklin)

The overall goal of any school district should be to ensure that a rigorous, valid, and functioning curriculum management system is being implemented to meet the educational needs of all students. Following a systematic framework that examines adopted board policies, resources, and practices, IPSI performs a curriculum management audit that identifies specific changes needed in order for all students to perform at the highest level academically. After completing an audit, a team from IPSI provides the local school board, educators, and community members with an objective and comprehensive report that details how well the school district functions in the area of instructional delivery. The audit identifies changes that need to occur systemically, modifications that need to be made to the written and taught curriculum, and deficits in resources/materials that need to be addressed.

Data-Driven Decision Making

“Things get done only if the data we gather can inform and inspire those in a position to make a difference.”

(Michael Schmoker)

IPSI team members support teachers and leaders with analyzing quantitative and qualitative data sources to identify student strengths and learning needs. Data are used to strategically plan lessons, set goals, monitor student performance, adjust instruction, and determine professional development or technical assistance needs.

Data Management System

“Things get done only if the data we gather can inform and inspire those in a position to make a difference.”

(Michael Schmoker)

IPSI offers a web-based, cross-platform data system that allows multiple users spread across various schools to enter data simultaneously and access pre-created reports to analyze real-time progress. The system is known as GEAR UP Integrated Data Entry System (GUIDES), and data collected allows teachers and leaders to access, analyze, and identify early warning indicators in areas such as attendance, behavior, and academic achievement. IPSI provides templates for data uploads, assists with setting up user access permissions, and provides coaching support to assist with data analysis and implementation recommendations based on findings.

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