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Data-Driven Decision Making Print E-mail

State, regional, and local educators continually grow more sophisticated in making data-driven decisions. This list contains information and tools regarding the following aspects of data-driven decision making:

  • Assessing readiness to implement a data-management system
  • Identifying the support, materials, and training needed to successfully implement data-driven decision making schoolwide or districtwide
  • Understanding the types of data essential for informing practice
  • Growing educators’ skill in using data to inform practice
  • Accessing state performance data summaries

The Center's Resources:

Program Evaluation for the Practitioner: Using Evaluation as a School Improvement Strategy
The June 2006 newsletter explains how schools can use program evaluation strategies to gather and analyze data and make informed decisions that contribute to continuous improvement.

Practices That Support Data Use in Urban High Schools
This October 2006 research brief looks at what factors have had an impact on the use of student performance data in low-performing urban high schools.

Using Classroom Assessment to Improve Teaching
The December 2006 newsletter explains why ongoing, high-quality classroom assessments are so important and provides some suggestions for how they can be developed and used.

Using Data: The Math’s Not the Hard Part
In this September 2006 issue brief, author Craig Jerald highlights research collected in the July 2005 special issue of the Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk to argue for collecting and using data to increase student achievement.

Using Scientifically Based Research in Schools
The October 2005 newsletter provides practical suggestions for reading and understanding scientifically based research and for applying the principles of scientific inquiry to both teaching and student learning.

Harnessing the Scientific Spirit to Improve Learning
The Center hosts a series of professional development audio segments that focus on developing a better understanding of the scientific movement in education to improve learning. The series discusses using scientifically based research and assessments to increase student achievement.

Progran #1: An Introduction to Basing Our Practice on Better Evidence (Additional Audio)
Progran #2: Changing the Nature of the Education Conversation (Additional Audio)
Progran #3: Trends in Using Measurement to Improve Learning (Additional Audio)
Progran #4: Monitoring What Gets Taught: Insuring an Adequate Opportunity to Learn (Additional Audio)
Progran #5: Making Science Usable—Engineering Evidence-Based Knowledge Into Lessons and Learning (Additional Audio)
Progran #6: Comparing Ourselves—Honestly—With the Best (Additional Audio)
Progran #7: Using Shared Assessments to Unpack Standards and Compare Instruction (Additional Audio)
Progran #8: Making Mistakes and Moving Beyond Them Is in the Scientific Spirit (Additional Audio)

School Reform and Improvement Database
The Center’s School Reform and Improvement Database provides almost 5,000 citations and abstracts of screened, high-quality research reports, articles, and studies on school reform and improvement from scholars throughout the United States.

Comprehensive School Reform Practitioner’s Guide to Scientifically Based Research
This National Clearinghouse for Comprehensive School Reform (NCCSR) guide provides information about the research available on the various federal CSR components and easy access to a variety of supporting research and resources, most of which are available online.

State Achievement Data Websites
State achievement data for schools and districts can be found on the individual State Department of Education Achievement Data websites.

Resources and Tools:

The Center on Innovation and Improvement State Policies, Programs and Progress Database
The Center on Innovation and Improvement (CII) has made available a database with data collected from all 50 state education agencies. Reports generated contain specific data on school improvement, restructuring, and supplemental educational services as well as Web links, contact information, and program descriptions for schools and districts. Individual reports can then be reviewed and downloaded. CII also provides free training on how to use the database and their website.

Data Use for Continuous Quality Improvement
This online tool developed by the Assessment and Accountability Comprehensive Center contains four key components: a guide for the effective use of data to improve educational decision making, a map of key capacities needed at each educational level to support effective data use, standards and criteria for evaluating data tools and selecting diagnostic assessments, and a comprehensive list of resources on research for effective data use.

To support the use of the website, the Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Center (ARCC) hosted a webcast titled, Becoming Data Smart: A New Tool for Effective Data Use. The video archives from the webcast are available from the ARCC website at

Effective Use of Electronic Data Systems: A Readiness Guide for School and District Leaders
The data readiness tool is divided into three sections. Section 1, Tools for District and School Leaders, is aimed at district and school leaders who are just beginning to think hard about acquiring an electronic data system. Designed to support each person's thinking, this section contains discussion elements along with corresponding questions that prompt dialogue about key issues for readiness. Section 2, Tools for Facilitators, makes it possible to use the guide as a resource for a group process to ascertain readiness—a sort of needs assessment. Show Full Abstract

Improving Education Practice Through Data Use: Data-Driven Decision-Making
This website provides resources on data-driven decision making, including reviews of software for analyzing student data. This site contains a variety of resources for helping educators and other researchers advance the practice of data-driven decision making, including such tools as state-based databases, student work analysis, and current research publications.

Making Good Choices: A Guide for Schools and Districts
This guide has been revised to reflect the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and includes an interactive CD-ROM that presents all the tools in the appendixes. It is designed for districts seeking to develop a comprehensive approach to reform and includes many useful self-assessment tools and checklists. The CD-ROM—usable in both Windows and Macintosh platforms—provides assistance to schools and districts in conducting a self-evaluation, profiling a comprehensive reform approach, and making a final decision. The PDF of the document is available at no cost online.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Data Explorer
The NAEP Data Explorer offers the user the ability to produce customized results from this comprehensive database that include data from the NAEP long-term trend (LTT) assessments in reading (beginning with the 1970–71 school year) and in mathematics (beginning in 1977–78). Three NAEP data sets are now available for constructing tables: main NAEP, comprising results from national, state, and selected urban district assessments; NAEP High School Transcript Study; and Long Term Trend Assessment Data.

Ohio Data Primer, 2008
The Data Primer is an instructional website designed to help educators become more comfortable with thinking about and using data for the purposes of instructional decision making. The Data Primer is organized according to four modules.

Articles and Reports:

Beyond Test Scores: Leading Indicators for Education, 2008
The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University has released a study of four districts recognized as advanced in their use of data to inform decision making for improved student learning. The study examines the concept of leading indicators for education beyond test data. Through interviews with district and school leaders, the authors identify several leading indicators, such as early reading proficiency and enrollment in algebra, as well as difficult-to-measure indicators, such as student engagement and teacher and principal quality. The role of the central office was shown to be primary in advocating for equity, providing supports for data-informed decision making, and establishing a strong culture of using data.

Closing the Expectations Gap 2009, 2009
This annual report from Achieve details states’ progress in aligning academic standards with postsecondary and workplace expectations and raising graduation requirements. Achieve surveyed all 50 states about the status of their efforts to align high school standards, graduation requirements, assessments, and accountability systems with the demands of college and careers. Findings show that 18 states and the District of Columbia currently require students to complete a college and career-ready curriculum in order to graduate. Show Full Abstract

The Condition of Education 2008, 2008
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has released a report that analyzes statistics detailing 43 indicators in five areas: participation in education, learner outcomes, student effort and educational progress, contexts of elementary and secondary education, and contexts of postsecondary education. The Condition of Education 2000–2008 (COE), an online integrated collection of the statistics and analyses from the 2000–2008 volumes, includes an indicators list, special analyses conducted for each year, highlights from this year’s COE, a user’s guide, and online access to PDF documents for previous COE publications.
The Condition of Education 2008:
The Condition of Education 2000–2008:

Education Watch 2009 State Summary Reports, 2009
The Education Watch 2009 State Summary Reports from the Education Trust provide a snapshot (based on data) of student achievement and the condition of public education in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the nation. These annual reports provide state-specific data on achievement gaps, high school and college attainment gaps, and opportunity gaps.

Formative Assessment Policies, Programs, and Practices in the Southwest Region, 2008
REL Southwest (a regional educational laboratory) has released a new report in the Issues & Answers series, which describes state formative assessment policies, practices, and programs in five southwestern states. The report looks at the need for formative assessment, the policies and programs in each state, the supports that link state policies and district practices, and examples of district-initiated practices in these states. The report includes study limitations, suggestions for further research, a side-by-side comparison, and a district representative questionnaire.

From Qualifications to Results: Promoting Teacher Effectiveness Through Federal Policy, 2009
This Center for American Progress report investigates assessment of teacher quality. The report suggests focusing on teacher effectiveness rather than teacher qualifications as a measure of teacher quality. The author makes recommendations for investment in state and district data systems and alternative certification programs that focus on teacher effectiveness. Key elements of federal policy reform proposals and examples of certification programs focused on teacher effectiveness are highlighted.

Getting the Evidence for Evidence-Based Initiatives: How the Midwest States Use Data Systems to Improve Educational Processes and Outcomes, 2007
This report by REL Midwest (a regional educational laboratory) details a study that examined how states in the Midwest region are developing innovative approaches to collecting and providing access to high-quality data in order to improve educational decision making. Additional capacity building and increased technical assistance at the state and local levels would enhance this work.

The Governance Divide: A Report on a Four-State Study on Improving College Readiness and Success, 2005
This Partnerships for Student Success (PSS) report is a four-state study that analyzed K–16 educational governance and policies at the state level. It identifies and examines four policy levers available to states that are interested in creating sustained K–16 reform: assessments and curricula, finance, data systems, and accountability. The report is a collaborative publication of the Institute for Educational Leadership, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, and the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research.

Making Sense of Data-Driven Decision Making in Education: Evidence From Recent RAND Research, 2006
In this research, authors from the RAND Corporation seek to clarify the ways in which multiple types of data are being used in schools and districts. This occasional paper synthesizes findings from recent research conducted by the RAND Corporation, including information gathered from large, representative samples of educators at the district, school, and classroom levels in a variety of contexts.

Measuring and Improving the Effectiveness of High School Teachers, 2008
This issue brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education examines how teacher effectiveness can be defined, measured, and improved. The brief provides an in-depth discussion of the pros and cons of value-added analysis for determining teacher impact and offers suggestions for supplemental measurement. The brief suggests ways to improve teacher effectiveness through professional development and teacher preparation, strengthening evaluations, and revamping accountability policies. Show Full Abstract

No Child Left Behind Issue Brief: Data-Driven Decisionmaking, 2002
This issue brief from the Education Commission of the States (ECS) investigates how exemplary districts use data in five states. The report describes the type of data collected, how student achievement is tracked for diagnosis and placement, how districts allocated resources, and how districts support data use. The authors provide suggestions for the future of effective data use by school districts.

Numbers and Types of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2005–06, 2007
This National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report presents findings on the numbers and types of public elementary and secondary schools in the United States and other jurisdictions in the 2005–06 school year, using data from the Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey of the Common Core of Data (CCD) survey system. Tables include information on number and percent of students by locale (city, suburban, town, and rural areas), eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch, as well as school type, charter, magnet, and Title I and Title I schoolwide status.

Report Card on American Education: A State-by-State Analysis, 15th Edition, 2008
State educational data are analyzed in this report card on American education from the American Legislative Exchange Council, providing comprehensive performance information on U.S. public schools. The report analyzes demographic data on educational inputs and results, including resources, student performance, and policy and funding impacts as well as institutional data. State and international rankings are provided and snapshots of state educational data are included.

SEDL Letter, Creating a Culture of Data, 2006
The November 2006 issue of SEDL Letter, published by Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL), examines building a culture of quality data so that administrators, teachers, and other staff members have access to the data they need and know how to analyze the data and use them to make instructional decisions. This publication looks at a recent research study about state data and discusses how school staffs can take the first steps in learning to analyze data effectively.

Standards for Data-Driven Decision Making, 2001
The National Staff Development Council (NSDC) has created a standard for data-driven decision making for educators. The site includes the NSDC standard and the rationale behind it. An annotated bibliography provides supplemental documentation for the establishment of the NSDC standard and rationale.

State Education Data Systems That Increase Learning and Improve Accountability, 2004
This issue of the Northwest Central Regional Educational Laboratory’s Policy Issues examines the current condition of state education data systems by looking critically at the past, present, and future of education data use. It assesses the components needed for system improvements and provides policy recommendations to help states create efficient and useful data systems that commit to advancing accountability systems to improve student learning.

Using Data to Drive Reform (Issue Focus), 2006
This WestEd R&D Alert (Vol. 8, No. 1, 2006) addresses generating and using data that drive improvements. The articles in this R&D Alert cover topics such as the creation of assessments, the development of the first new framework for the science portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the challenge of ensuring that assessments and accountability systems are of high enough quality to meet the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act, and the use of data to effectively inform improvement efforts.

Using Data to Improve Schools: What’s Working, 2002
This guide from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) explains how to use various data to promote whole-school change and provides tools and insights to help schools cultivate “a district-wide culture of inquiry that values the power of data to inform sound decision-making and improve teaching and learning.

Using Multiple Levels of Data to Address Educational Issues, 2008
This policy brief is based on Getting the Evidence for Evidence-Based Initiatives: How the Midwest States Use Data Systems to Improve Educational Processes and Outcomes, a 2007 Issues & Answers report by Sarah-Kathryn McDonald, Jolynne Andal, and Kevin Brown of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and Barbara Schneider of Michigan State University. The Issues & Answers report was the result of a short-term REL Midwest study designed to (1) document current and expected priority information needs Show Full Abstract

Using Student Data to Improve Teaching and Learning: Findings from an Evaluation of the Formative Assessments of Student Thinking in Reading (FAST-R) Program in Boston Elementary Schools, 2008
This evaluation by MDRC provides analysis of the Boston Plan for Excellence (BPE) FAST-R schools. The evaluation included 21 schools in the Boston Public Schools system that implemented the FAST-R program of using data from formative assessments to improve reading instruction. A process analysis uses data from surveys of elementary school principals and elementary school teachers at participating schools and a group of comparison schools. An impact analysis uses reading test scores from students in the schools that implemented the program, before and after the implementation. Reflections on the study and supplemental materials are included.

What States Can Learn About State Standards and Assessment Systems from No Child Left Behind Documents and Interviews with Central Region Assessment Directors, 2008
The purpose of this study (documented in a REL Central Issues & Answers report) is to describe the No Child Left Behind Act requirements for state standards and assessment systems. It examined official documents and peer review decision letters and included interviews with state assessment directors in the Central Region to highlight the challenges states face in developing and implementing approved systems.

Related Organizations:

Alabama Best Practices Center
The Alabama Best Practices Center was established to help improve student achievement by raising the quality of teaching through professional development. The website offers information on the 21st Century Learners project, publications and reports, and teacher resources on staff development and professional development, including a list of resources on data-driven schools.

Annenberg Institute for School Reform
Housed at Brown University, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform works to share research and knowledge aimed at transforming school systems into "smart education systems." The Institute has developed several publications and tools for districts and schools.

Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education
The Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education (CDDRE) at Johns Hopkins University provides a free online Best Evidence Encyclopedia that gives educators and researchers unbiased research-based information about a variety of K–12 educational interventions. The Best Evidence Encyclopedia includes CDDRE staff-written summaries of research reviews on educational programs organized by topic on the website.