Oct 21 2020

4 Ways to Launch a Data Initiative — or Get One Back on Track

Although schools realize the importance of data in providing quality education, many still struggle to use it strategically.

Data-driven initiatives have helped schools improve student learning outcomes and measure technology ROI.

The School District of Palm Beach County in Florida, for example, relies on its data systems to spot which students may be falling behind and need more academic support in a school that may be doing well as a whole. “We use data to make sure we can drill down to every student and every other facet of the organization,” says Superintendent Donald Fennoy II.

Yet starting a data initiative can be challenging. Despite understanding the benefits and importance of data, many school leaders and educators still struggle to make sense of what they’ve collected and place it at the core of their decision-making. Here’s what they can do to launch a successful data initiative.

How to Get Started with a Data Initiative

  1. Keep It Simple: The universe of potential data points can be overwhelming, so narrow it down, says Anthony Padrnos, executive director of technology at Osseo Area Schools in Minnesota. Identify three to five elements you want to explore, then build competency and culture around them.
  2. Align to Your Questions: Make sure your program delivers the intended results, says Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger, president and CEO of the Data Quality Campaign. “So often, we set up a data system or infrastructure that can hold an awful lot of stuff, but it may not answer the key questions we need to drive improvement,” she says.
  3. Focus on Users: Bring all the stakeholders to the table, says Mark Howard, chief of performance accountability at the School District of Palm Beach County. “Get their voice up front. There are a lot of technical elements, but the technology has to work for the end user.” A corollary: “Don’t assume you know what people need.”
  4. >Make Data a Priority: Time and resources are limited, notes Michelle Velikorodnyy, principal of Saugus Union School District’s Charles Helmers Elementary School, in California. If a data-driven culture is the priority, other projects might take a back seat or be handled via email rather than consume valuable meeting time. “It has to be very intentional. Otherwise, it won’t happen,” she says.

MORE ON EDTECH: How can IT leaders support data-driven education?

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