Build a Data-Informed Culture of Collective Efficacy

Topics: Assistant Principals, Professional Learning

Effective decision-making is informed by data. The more specific our knowledge of the data is, the more targeted we can be with our decisions. In schools, APs play a key role in ensuring that students, staff, and parents understand the data. Getting all stakeholders understand the data and have shared commitments toward the data-informed goals results in collective efficacy.

The Value of Data

Not only does a clear understanding of student achievement data give APs more knowledge of students, but it can also be a springboard for action. Data reveals where students are and where they have been. With a sense of efficacy, data provides not just a baseline but also a means to set high and achievable goals for both teachers and students, informing plans for targeted interventions and lessons.

Here are five actions APs can take to help stakeholders understand the intricacies of data-informed decisions in your school.

1. Break Down the Goals

We need to have a sense of urgency about our goals. Without it, we often tend to put it off, knowing we have a whole year ahead of us to achieve these goals. Consider the commotion a new year can bring to a school, and we can sabotage ourselves before we even begin. Break down the goals into manageable chunks and shorten the time frame. For example, if the yearlong goal is for the child to increase their oral reading fluency by 75 words per minute, then that goal can be broken down into weekly goals. A more manageable and urgent goal might be, “Wanda will increase her correct words read per minute by 3 words per week.” Goals with shorter time frames help keep the sense of urgency active.

2. Make It Visual

To keep the fire lit and sense of urgency alive, consider creating visual reminders. This could be a bulletin board in a highly visual location in the school that tracks schoolwide student achievement. Make sure any data you post publicly doesn’t violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Teachers can create bulletin boards for class-wide data. These could be fun themes like a racetrack or a football field. One way to keep it individualized and interactive but still respect student privacy is to have a secret code for each student. The child will know their own code but no one else’s and can move their indicator along as their achievement increases. Students can also track their individual progress in personal data binders.

APs can support teachers’ efforts by adding visual reminders in the weekly or monthly newsletters. This could include a chart that tracks the progress of the schoolwide goal. When stakeholders can view progress at a glance, the motivation is more likely to be self-sustaining.

3. Use Multiple Means of Communication

APs should make every effort to make the data accessible and understandable for all stakeholders. Some ways of doing this include in-person events such as Curriculum Night, Reading Night, and Parent Teacher Conferences. In addition, ensuring that teacher gradebooks are updated regularly and that they accurately reflect student progress is a very important way of communicating a child’s achievement. APs play an important role in keeping these forms of communication timely and accurate.

4. Encourage a Shared Commitment

Schoolwide goals are important for the school, but they might not resonate with or motivate parents. Parents want to see their own child succeed. When you align schoolwide goals with high and achievable individualized goals, you’re laying the groundwork for shared commitment.

This shared commitment is essential to moving the needle for student achievement. At my school, we developed a school/home agreement that lists the student’s goals, as well as specific actions that students, teachers, and parents should take. All three parties signed the agreement, formalizing the shared commitment.

5. Build Trust Through Transparency

Without transparency, a trusted relationship between the school and home will be tenuous, at best. APs can create communication vehicles that drive transparency. The methods I outlined here enable the truth about student achievement to become accessible to parents. Only when all parties have a clear understanding of our current data can we develop the trust that is needed to work together to help students reach their potential.

Every child deserves the very best educational experience possible. A deep look at data can reveal whether the educational experience is effective for each child. By investing the time to do a deep dive of the data, APs will have a deeper understanding of the many factors that impact student achievement.

Randi Fielding is assistant principal of Magma Ranch K–8 in Florence, Arizona.