• Data-driven decision making must be an ongoing process rather than a one-time event centered on the acquisition of a data system. Districts will get more out of their investments in electronic data systems if they think about data-driven decision making as a system-wide innovation and develop a long-term strategy for its implementation as part of a continuous improvement process.
• To influence teachers’ day-to-day instruction, data systems must provide teachers with information that is both timely and relevant to their instructional decisions. To be useful to teachers, systems need to provide data from recently given assessments that provide diagnostic information on students’ learning needs.
• Human and organizational supports for data use are just as important as the technical quality of a school district’s data system. Professional development around the use of data to improve instruction is widespread, but only a small minority of districts and schools have made data use a regular part of teachers’ practice.
• Districts can promote data-driven decision making in their schools by providing time for teachers to meet with colleagues to discuss and use data, funding positions for instructional coaches who help teachers connect data to alternative instructional approaches, and modeling data-driven decision making for continuous improvement in their own operations.
Using data to improve instruction is one of the Obama administration’s four key areas of school reform. The federal stimulus package included $250 million to help states improve their data systems—a figure that adds to the $65 million available in fiscal year 2009 and $58.2 million available in FY 2010.
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