I have learned much about data-driven decision making (DDDM) from Dr. Scott McLeod. He is an acknowledged authority on DDDM and is especially knowledgeable about frequent formative assessment. My own interest in DDDM is focused on how individuals can use data to lead change in schools and create cultures that are more data-driven. I wrote a monograph for NASSP in 1999 entitled “Using Data for School Improvement”. At the time I could see where the winds were blowing in the US in regards to school accountability. Looking back, I don’t think I could have predicted how far along that continuum we have traveled.
In principle, most all of us believe in the ideals of DDDM which Scott has discussed extensively on this blog. The problem is that for many policy makers and even educators, the only “data” that counts in DDDM are student test scores. While I agree that academic success should be the primary focus, this perspective dismisses so much of what teaching and learning is really about. My first grade daughter is an incredible artist (yes I am biased) and has been inspired by a wonderful public school art teacher for the last two years, but I worry that talent may not be nurtured in future grades because schools are divesting from art, music and other “non-academic” subjects to devote more resources for reading and math.
To investigate my interest in the relationships among DDDM, leadership, change, and school culture, I spent part of last year creating a survey instrument to assess teacher perceptions. I have used the survey “Data-Driven Decision Making in Schools” in ten schools so far and I have begun factor analysis procedures. One of the high school principals whose school completed the survey indicated that she has used the results to create her own professional development plan for personal growth. She is building on her strengths as a leader of DDDM and is formulating action plans to address areas of concern. I hope to conduct in-depth research and use this instrument to help school leaders understand teachers’ beliefs and learn what their teachers know or do not know about DDDM. The initial data that I have analyzed does not paint a positive picture. Not only are teachers lacking the knowledge about DDDM and concepts like frequent formative assessment. The data also indicate that teachers and even principals in many schools do not have access to the data that they need to make informed decisions about instructional practice. These are organizational and structural barriers that have to be addressed.
While educators sometimes complain about the application of business related research and theory to educational organizations, I have found much in this literature that has informed my work in DDDM. I am especially impressed with the Balanced Scorecard concept by Kaplan and Norton and the practical application that it holds for education. I am about to submit a manuscript for publication with one of my doctoral students, examining the relationship between DDDM and the Balanced Scorecard. Speaking of manuscripts, I have to take my leave to edit one now. DMQ