In 2020, the world’s data storage reached 40 zettabytes of data (that’s 40 trillion gigabytes)! With distance learning, the use of technology in education has hit unprecedented levels. With schools implementing programs such as Lexia, Rosetta Stone, DreamBox, Aleks, iReady, Newsela, Coursera, Duolingo, Remind, Study Island and Kahoot to name a few, schools are struggling to manage their data correctly. Add the idea of learning loss to the mix and how to address it, district leaders are frantically scrambling to make the most out of data only to find that they are suffering greatly from DRIP Syndrome, meaning they are Data Rich, Information Poor.
The aforementioned avenues for new data discovery coupled with the reality that for decades school districts across the country have based many of their policy and practice decisions on standardized testing data, which when viewed in isolation, represents a limited view of student success and has often been very misleading. The policies that are enforced and the decisions that are made based on these data have failed to close persistent achievement disparities across income levels and between white students and students of color, even after more than 50 years of testing.
According to Education Elements, a school district’s data culture can be defined by:
- Beliefs – What the district and its stakeholders believe to be true about data
- Values – The standards that are used to decide what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong, are guidelines for using data
- Norms – The rules and expectations that guide data use, and the practices that are inherently reinforced
- Resources – The data the district has choses to collect and the tools available for accessing and using the data
- Spaces – Where data are used, stored, and shared
When considering this framework, Education Elements warns that districts avoid these 6 summarized pitfalls:
- Designing a data system for accountability and compliance
- Only collecting and prioritizing standardized-testing data
- Not taking the time to design a data strategy
- Implementing policies around your data that slow down the flow of information and limit transparency
- Viewing data as providing the “power to do for” rather than the “power to do with”
- Connecting your data systems to just one leader or level of leadership, so that when that person leaves, so does your system
It could be said that data is only as good as the personnel and tools a district has in place to analyze and leverage it. With that in mind, districts would be wise to invest in business intelligence platforms and incorporate them into a more central role in the future. By doing so, and putting the power to analyze data into the hands of everyone, they could begin to explore what effective responsive planning will look like in a district while establishing a sustainable, strong data culture.
If you were a district leader, how would you use data to improve the lives of students and families in the community that you served?
What framework would you establish for building a strong data culture within your district?