Data is all around us, and we’ve become experts in using it. From checking customer reviews before purchasing a product, to using a fitness band to monitor our health, we rely on data to make so many decisions in our everyday lives.

Data is just as useful in our professional lives, too. When districts implement a process of using data to guide decision-making, everyone is better equipped to make policy, administrative, and professional development decisions that will improve student outcomes. These three tips are essential to creating a solid foundation for the effective use of data in your district.

Information is Critical to Making Good Decisions

Fantasy football is a great example of a data-driven decision-making process. By knowing all about your players’ stats, strengths and weaknesses, you can make decisions about who to include in your lineup and make necessary adjustments to win the game. Schools should use data in a similar way. Data helps educators identify areas of strength and areas that need improvement–for themselves and their students.

Guided by this information, educators can make more impactful decisions and adjustments to improve student outcomes. More specifically, data can provide insight into the implementation and effects of accountability systems; it can help inform the effectiveness of existing interventions and other practices, and it can help identify areas that need additional resources.

At an individual student level, by tracking and analyzing data points such as GPA, attendance, behavioral incidents, and social-emotional data, schools can begin to understand the individual needs of each student and what additional supports are needed to improve academic outcomes.

Create a Process That Works for Your School/District

Don’t get overwhelmed; start small. Begin by choosing one area where you think data could really help improve instruction or school practice and start there. One example is to utilize student data in a weekly meeting centered on examining the needs of your most at-risk students. Another example is to use data to identify specific areas in your school, like behavior, that need improvement. Once you build a process in one area and start seeing results, tackling another area will be less daunting.

Outcomes Depend on Systematic Implementation

Once you’ve created a process, stick with it. Systematic implementation of your data-driven decision-making process is critical to its success. Don’t expect dramatic improvements if you neglect to prioritize your process, or if it falls by the wayside by mid-semester. A strong process relies on strong ownership, buy-in from school leadership and staff alike, and accountability from the district office to the classroom. The process should be continuously examined and refined as your knowledge and needs change.

Data helps us diagnose problems and develop informed effective solutions. It’s one of the greatest assets we have to drive student achievement and our own professional growth and success.

Have something to add? We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.