Data-driven insights have the potential to transform teaching and learning, but only if school administrators create an environment where data can thrive.
The term data culture refers to the paradigm shift toward using facts and statistics to optimize day-to-day operations in a business context. However, it’s no coincidence that the byproducts of an effective data culture in business — fresher insights, lower operating costs, better decisions made faster — are the same goals of a school administrator.
Data culture and education already intersect — many superintendents use data analytics software to highlight areas of improvement and uncover opportunities to boost student outcomes. Yet, far too many educators end up data rich and information poor. According to a 2018 Harris Poll survey, 26 percent of teachers can’t access data quickly enough to reach their goals. Plus, even if they could, 34 percent would still fall short because there is simply too much data to sift through.
A school district’s data culture can only be effective if it’s built with educators in mind, meaning that information is accessible, usable, and purposeful. Taking a look at what our customers are doing, let’s examine how Hoonuit’s end-to-end data management solutions are helping district leaders build a dynamic data culture.
The main thing educators need to create an effective data culture is, of course, the right data. However, having data for data’s sake is not going to yield insights specific enough to significantly improve a school district’s performance. There are two primary approaches — process-oriented and calendar-based — to address information deficits in a systematic manner and make data useable.
Since school improvement is not a one-and-done endeavor, it helps to think about data analysis and implementation as a continuous cycle. Every time school administrators create a new goal for their district and gather data, they can follow this pattern: analysis, interpretation, planning, monitoring, and re-engagement. Each phase of Hoonuit’s school improvement process comes with a specific objective and focus question attached that’s designed to hone in on what can be done with the information, instead of simply resting on what the data says.
Running data analysis and implementation projects in tandem with the academic year is an effective strategy for breaking down massive amounts of data. Each month has a built-in “theme” that guides strategy. For instance, August is the time for educators to set goals, January is for re-assessing those goals, and June is for reflecting on the past year and figuring out what did and did not work. This method is best suited for long-term projects, like improving school-wide test scores, that require routine check-ins.
Both of these approaches feature directed questions throughout to orient data analysis and implementation, making it much easier for school administrators to take control of the data they’ve gathered.
For administrators, an effective data culture means having a centralized platform to house all school-related data and optimized operational processes that extend from staff meetings to parent-teacher conferences. Routine staff meetings that were once simply for disseminating information can become targeted sessions centered around making progress toward data-driven goals. Also, it can mean including parents by giving them access to detailed information about their child’s progress, so they don’t have to wait for biannual conferences or newsletters to come around.
For students, an effective data culture can manifest as practical, personalized feedback. For example, grading rubrics that aren’t data-based are reflections of each individual teacher’s subjective criteria. Grading rubrics based on real data gathered from students’ performances foster an environment that prioritizes individualized learning. Educators can pass on their insights to their students, highlight strengths and weaknesses in addition to standard skills, and empower their students to become more involved in their own instruction.
An effective, nuanced, insight-driven data culture is not built in a day. In fact, trying to transition an entire school to a new data culture in one fell swoop is the easiest way to get overwhelmed.
At Hoonuit, we advise school administrators to start incrementally and build their data analytics systems with a trusted partner. Begin by creating a data culture within your administration first, using our Essentials Analytics Solution to better manage your resources and form an organizational structure that benefits every student. Once you’ve witnessed the difference data-driven insights can make, expand their influence by including additional stakeholders and users and welcome your district into the data age.