Local, State, and Federal accountability systems are key issues for schools and districts. Recently, I was asked how I use the results of these assessments to develop improvement plans that target critical areas.
First, I ensure that I have multiple streams of accurate data. Depending on only one set of information may potentially misinform a proposal for improvement as it may leave certain characteristics or behaviors that may be hindering improvement hidden. Once these streams are collected, I would intersect them with data sets from previous years to create a rich, multifaceted picture of the school over a period (e.g. 2-3 years).
While the information gathered through assessment data is critical, there are multiple types of data that must also be taken into account such as student and community demographics, data regarding professional development opportunities afforded to educators, data about the school itself (e.g. staff turnover rates, programs offered, etc.). Additionally, the assessment data taken into account can come in multiple forms such as norm-referenced, criterion-referenced, standards-based, etc. All of these matters should be taken into account when developing an improvement plan.
Although student learning data and school processes data can provide a sufficient look into the school’s performance, perceptions data should also be included in the development of an improvement plan. This sort of data may be collected through interviews, observations, and surveys of staff, students, and parents. They will inform what the stakeholders think about the learning environment and can be tremendously helpful in crafting an actionable plan. People behave based on what they believe to be true. Therefore, to change a group’s perceptions, we have to first know what those perceptions are.
Finally, the critical element of using data from accountability systems lies with the analysis of the information. That is, as principal, my staff and I must compare data sets disaggregated by program, gender, and grade level along with the perceptions data that we acquire. Only through this interweaving of information will we be able to take into account who our students are, how they prefer to learn, which subgroups of students are achieving, and with which processes they achieve the most.
What about you? How would you use data to develop a school improvement plan? Send me a message and let me know...