This article will be presented in 5 sections, with each new section sent out weekly. The focus is on 5 critical factors to have “right” when preparing to make data informed decisions: getting the “right people” the “right data” in the “right format” within the “right time” using the “right process” in order to make well informed decisions for divisions, departments, schools, staff, classrooms, students and families.
In our last segment, the importance of the “right format” when sharing data was highlighted to ensure teams could engage in data-driven decision-making. In this segment, the focus will extend to ensuring adequate time allocation and timeliness when sharing and reviewing data. text here
Using data to make better decisions to improve student outcomes requires purposeful scheduling and adequate time to make decisions. As such, teams will need to consider this variable when organizing and planning the school year. Specific practices that include the intentional allocation of time embedded in organizational structures such as: annual calendars, master schedules, professional learning opportunities, and a predictable schedule for the distribution and review of data, can be utilized to promote data driven decision making at a division and school level.
In order to ensure a tiered system of support is integrated effectively into a division and school’s way of work, there must be ample time for data collection that includes universal screening, progress monitoring, and evaluation of progress. A tool that can be used as a launching point for this is an Assessment Map (VTSS, 2022), which clearly maps out the various types of assessments that will be given throughout a school year, as well as the intended purpose for each assessment and the frequency of administration. Assessment maps are not only helpful to establish what assessments will be conducted each school year, they are also critical in identifying when they will occur for specific student groups or content areas. Different types of assessments are required at certain times whether it be at the beginning of the year to establish a baseline (e.g. universal screening), or at the end of an instructional period to evaluate students’ knowledge and performance. Clearly organizing the schedule for when data is collected is a critical time element in the decision making process. In this regard, teams may also want to consider timelines for when the collected data will be reviewed following the assessment window, as well as establish a timeline and method for how this data will be shared with families and other relevant stakeholders (e.g. parent letter, school board presentation, etc.). Adding the data review schedule and stakeholder sharing schedules to the Assessment Map can further enhance its use as an effective organizational tool. Timeliness of this review is directly connected to the team’s ability to quickly identify potential problems, respond accordingly to align appropriate supports and interventions, and communicate effectively with those who need to be informed and included in the decisions.
Another reason time is critical to the data informed decision making process pertains to the master schedule. While building a master schedule that supports collaborative problem-solving can be challenging, it is extremely vital to the team’s capacity to use data effectively for decision making. How the school day is organized has a significant impact on staff’s ability to support data informed decisions on an ongoing basis. For example, a school that incorporates common planning time for general education and special education teachers, supports their ability to more effectively co -plan and routinely review student data collaboratively. Similarly, schools that intentionally schedule intervention times, or designated blocks for content, such as social emotional learning (SEL), reading, or math, establish the necessary time required to implement interventions in a manner that ensures all students who need support will have access.
An additional time related factor connected to the master schedule is the amount of time needed to implement a selected intervention with fidelity. For example, if the selected reading intervention requires 45 minutes of instruction daily, does the master schedule support this? This is an important factor for teams to consider during the decision making process, as it allows teams to determine if a student’s degree of progress is impacted by a lack of fidelity to implementation.
Other key factors related to time and data informed decision making include professional learning and team meeting structures. In order for teams to effectively utilize data, time must be allocated for members to receive relevant training and support specific to their use of data systems, data output or reports, and internal problem solving processes. Opportunities for learning and growth in the area of data analysis and use should therefore be considered when building the professional learning calendar for staff (Schildkamp, Poortman, Luyten & Ebbeler, 2017). As teams build their data fluency and their problem solving practices become a routine part of their data culture, the amount of time needed may decrease.
Schildkamp et al. (2017) also identify time as a potential hindrance, or barrier, to decision making if teams are not provided with ample time to review data. For example, if the team is trying to determine why there has been a recent spike in discipline referrals, the team will need enough time to look beyond frequency data to conduct a root cause analysis, which is typically a more time intensive process than a broad overview of the number and types of referrals. Ensuring that the data provided to the team is done so in a timely manner, as well as scheduling ample and predictable times for teams to analyze the information and dig into problem solving, is therefore necessary to promote the effective use of data.
Once the right people are at the table, with the right data to review, in a format that is right for the team, and the right amount of time is allocated to support its use, the team will need to know the right steps to take to begin to problem solve. In the last segment of “5 Factors to Get Right with Data-Informed Decision Making”, we will highlight the importance of the “right process” to ensure teams can analyze and interpret data that result in meaningful decisions and action.
Assessment Map. Tools – VTSS RIC – Virginia Commonwealth University. (2022, October 25). Retrieved March 27, 2023, from https://vtss-ric.vcu.edu/resources/tools/
Kim Schildkamp, Cindy Poortman, Hans Luyten & Johanna Ebbeler. (2017). Factors promoting and hindering data-based decision making in schools, School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 28:2, 242-258, DOI: 10.1080/09243453.2016.1256901