After working in school environments where data was not king, I one day found myself en route to New Orleans to visit a data-centered school to experience what they called ‘Data Day’. Having spent some time working remotely with this school’s data managers, I was excited to finally meet them in person and experience exactly what a data-informed culture can do for a school. Although the concept of a Data Day was entirely new to me, I already knew that these data managers were focused on efficient teaching and ultimately changing students’ lives, and that they were using carefully managed data to make smart decisions in order to save their educators valuable time.
I spent the day before Data Day watching teachers enter interim assessments into their school management system, Schoolrunner. At this particular school, interim assessments are administered over the course of a week. The assessments are then graded immediately and data is gathered and analyzed so that school leaders can present on academic standing, as well as behavioral and attendance changes throughout the quarter.
Administrators also analyze data in order to recognize and commend each quarter’s outstanding staff members. The ‘Staff Dashboard’ feature in their school management system (Schoolrunner) is used to view information on who has made the most calls home to parents, or which staff members are reinforcing school culture by tracking merits and/or demerits. The amount of long, hard hours these teachers and administrators put into their schools and their students is already mind-boggling, and in my view, awe-inspiring and extraordinary.
But the week preceding Data Day defines dedication – dedication taken to a whole new level.
It is an intense time.
During this week, these educators stretch themselves even further to ensure that students are successful on their interims, and that data is recorded so school leaders can analyze and prepare to present that information in time for Data Day. They put in more overtime than I ever thought possible in order to optimize every minute of a student’s school day, while completely rearranging student and teacher schedules to reflect these changes.
This carefully planned reorganization is based entirely on the data they get out of Schoolrunner. They look closely at that data, consider how to make every aspect of the school day count toward student success, and then take action – all without missing a beat. The reports they pull from Schoolrunner empower them to make decisions quickly and efficiently. Long gone are the days of entering each assessment and merit or demerit into a spreadsheet, and then manually calculating growth or decline. Now teachers are able to quickly enter their students’ grades into their student management system, consider which objectives might need to be retaught, and then turn around and go right back to face-to-face interaction with their students.
Data Day is powerful. Teachers get to see where their students stand in relation to the entire charter management organization, and at the same time get inspired by the powerful energy of their peers as they continue to strive for student success. After the all-staff meeting, teachers break out into PLCs (professional learning communities) to look over the data, discuss instructional strategies on how to better serve students, and set goals to be met the following quarter.
None of the information they view that day is a mystery to these teachers, however. They have been analyzing their own data throughout each quarter and are well aware of their students’ needs. This opportunity exists to provide them with a chance to dig more deeply into their data and find new insights. These teachers have a powerful analysis tool at their fingertips every day, and Data Day is a way to share this information more broadly and support each other by offering new teaching and classroom management strategies.
The passion these teachers and administrators have for their work is truly inspiring, and it was an honor to witness it that day, as it is in my work with them every day. Commitment, flexibility, and actionable data all come together during Data Day.
Data Day’s unique approach to bringing analysis into schools is one that can have an incredible impact on students and school culture, and it’s an approach that I’d be thrilled to see more schools adopt. Ultimately, it all boils down to using data in the best way possible: Helping teachers help students – one great way to build a brighter future for us all.