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Data Is Everywhere — Even at School

Educators and district leaders are discovering the importance of data for promoting school improvement and enhancing instruction. Due to recent technological advances and an increased demand for assessing student learning, an enormous amount of data has become available to teachers and district leaders. American school districts are starting to use the necessary tools to interpret and effectively use aggregate student data. Educators can glean insights from data not only on student test scores but also a host of other variables, including the following:

  • Health and lifestyles.
  • School climate.
  • Parental and community involvement.

Data can also provide educators with the means to:

  • Evaluate programs.
  • Gauge instructional effectiveness.
  • Measure student progress.
  • Guide curriculum development.
  • Effectively allocate resources.
  • Promote accountability.

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measures the academic performance of a U.S. public school or school district in standardized tests. The U.S. Department of Education uses AYP data as a diagnostic tool to determine how schools need to improve and where financial resources should go.

At the school and district level, gathered data helps educators do the following:

  1. Look for learning gaps - Educators can compare the school's student assessments to the Common Core standards to identify learning gaps.
  2. Communicate data to fellow educators - Teachers across grade levels can benefit from information they have gathered over the school year. When they share student data across grade levels they can help other teachers plan ahead.

Making Data Decisions

When teachers and district leaders analyze data for school improvement, they may see trends or patterns -- a group of schools exceeding the district average AYP, for instance. While analyzing and interpreting data, more questions may surface:

What are the high-performing schools doing differently? Can the same best practices help lower-performing schools? Why or why not?

It is important for educators to examine and properly formulate the types of questions they want the data to answer, given that the questions will inform data collection and analysis.

Frontline teachers may feel removed from student performance data, believing it to be unwieldy and irrelevant to the everyday classroom. They can still rely on the data they collect almost every day through homework, quizzes and spot checks. 

If you're a certified teacher interested in applying data insights to school improvement, you can delve into the subject within the broader context of a master's degree program in educational leadership.

Data Management for School Improvement

The University of Texas at Arlington's Master of Education in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies program includes Educational Research and Evaluation, a course that focuses on statistical analysis and data collection based on educational studies. Students in this class will also become familiar with educational associations, funding agencies, accreditation procedures, program evaluation and sampling procedures.

The program curriculum also includes the following courses:

  • Curriculum Design, Implementation & Evaluation.
  • Leadership in the Instructional Setting.
  • Leadership Theory.
  • Diversity in Educational Settings.
  • Political and Legal Aspects of Education.
  • The Principalship.
  • Resource Management in Education.
  • Administrative Internship.
  • Capstone Internship in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. 

Learn more about UTA's online Master of Education in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies program.


American Association of School Administrators: Using Data to Improve Schools

Amplify: 5 Ways to Use Data to Improve Your Teaching

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