As data are analyzed and progress toward goals is measured, it is important to communicate these analyses with stakeholders in your school community. Communicating the results of data analyses can be a powerful way to motivate change and encourage continued progress toward school-wide goals. Results of these analyses need to be widely shared if they are to truly bring about change. For example, data analysis by a team of 8th-grade ELA teachers might reveal that a reading comprehension unit was particularly effective for struggling students.
More than simply reporting raw data, taking time to discuss data analysis can help ensure that analyses are not unintentionally twisted by unrecognized biases. Having conversations about data analysis enables others to offer alternate hypotheses for changes in data. For example, a campus-based leadership team may hypothesize that an increase in student absences is due to sickness, while teachers may understand that parental seasonal work may be driving many absences. This discussion can lead to further investigation and data collection to reveal the factors influencing attendance. Regular conversations about data also provide faculty ongoing opportunities to build their data savvy and learn more about the students they serve.
Families and community members also have a vested interest in the success of public schools in their neighborhood. Action Step R3 calls for you to share performance data with students’ families and the larger community. In addition to any state-required reporting of performance data, it can be especially powerful to share progress toward school goals with these stakeholders.
It is important to present data in ways that are understandable to the particular audience. With staff, the use of technical language and education acronyms such as BOY, MOY, and EOY are helpful. When all members of the discussion are familiar with it, this language can actually help educators communicate with more precision.
However, when communicating with families and community members, educational jargon or technical language should be avoided at all costs. Data should be explained in ways that make sense to lay persons. Analyses should be straightforward. Graphics can help explain complex analyses in simple ways. Remember to ensure that information about student performance data is communicated to families using languages they understand well.
Beyond being understandable, data should also be explained so it is meaningful to each stakeholder. For example, what is meaningful for teachers and staff are the data that inform their work and help them improve outcomes for students, such as class averages on a district-wide, curriculum-based assessment. Meaningful data for families relate directly to their children and their progress toward academic and non-academic goals, such as individual student progress from the beginning of the year (BOY) to the middle of the year (MOY) or the end of the year (EOY). This information can also be coupled with the ways in which the school will be continuing to support students’ successes.
Finally, performance data and progress toward goals should be shared and communicated with the community in multiple ways. Traditionally, schools communicate with families and community members through newsletters, but schools are increasingly thinking of new ways to share information. More and more, schools use their websites, email, and social media to share performance data. Integrating performance data throughout all communication can be powerful. For example, in a meeting for parents of incoming students, a principal can quickly communicate the school’s progress toward its goals in a straightforward way.
While data analysis is becoming common in schools, it is most effective when its use is systematic and when results are regularly communicated to all stakeholders. As you and your team discuss this Action Step, consider how you can encourage more systematic and meaningful analysis, use, and communication of data.
TO LEARN MORE: The following resource may be helpful for you and your team as you create a plan to communicate data:
Tips for Administrators, Teachers, and Families: How to Share Data Effectively, developed by the Harvard Family Research Project, helps administrators, teachers, and families determine the best ways to share student data in meaningful ways on a regular basis to strengthen family-school partnerships and promote student learning. The tip sheets include examples of data-sharing practices that illustrate how administrators, teachers, and families can adopt a data-driven approach to supporting student learning. These tip sheets can easily be modified for use in secondary schools.
NEXT STEPS: Depending on your progress in using and communicating performance data and communicating progress toward goals, you may want to consider the following next steps:
Gather information to understand how systematically performance data are being analyzed at your school. Specifically, consider how performance data are being used to monitor program effectiveness, inform your data-informed plan, and prioritize the Action Steps on which your improvement efforts are focused.
Evaluate how progress toward goals is being communicated with all stakeholders. Consider if communication efforts are most appropriate for the specific audience.
Evaluate existing professional development systems at your school to determine if teachers are adequately supported as they analyze performance data.
Use effective professional development practices to train staff on data use and communication of progress toward goals.
Define written processes and timelines for data analysis procedures. Specifically, consider procedures in which data analyses are used to monitor program effectiveness, inform your data-informed plan, and prioritize the Action Steps on which your improvement efforts are focused.
Define written procedures and timelines to communicate data analysis results and progress toward goals.
Identify gaps that exist between existing procedures and timelines and ideal procedures and timelines.