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.
Once schools have the right people and the right data in the right format, reviewed at the right time, the right process will be critical to establishing effective action plans. The MTSS framework engages educators in the use of a data-based decision-making process that can function as the primary driver within a model of continuous school improvement, influencing teacher practice and elevating student performance (AIR, 2023). While there are several problem solving processes to select from, schools that have used the Team-Initiated Problem Solving process (TIPS, figure 1, University of Oregon, 2021) have demonstrated improvements with identifying problems early, developing solutions that are practical and culturally responsive, and documenting benefits related to the needs of the school, staff, and students (Chaparro, Horner, Algozzine, Daily & Nese, 2022).
The TIPS problem-solving process includes four overall elements: (a) identifying a precise problem, (b) identifying a goal for change, and (c) identifying solutions and an implementation plan, and (d) evaluation (Chaparro, Horner, Algozzine, Daily & Nese, 2022).
- The first step involves identifying a problem with precision and includes several actions (Sandomierski et al., 2022):
- First, teams summarize existing data which may include, for example, the most common discipline variables (e.g., disciplinary offense, location, time of day, administrative action) for all students along with any identified student groups.
- Teams will then compare schoolwide and student group data to identify any disparities. This level of analysis will increase teams’ familiarity with patterns that may exist for students in a particular student group and highlight specific variables that would be important for future analysis.
- Next, teams develop a presumed data summary statement which clarifies a targeted problem, and indicates who is involved as well as when, where, and how often the problem is occurring.
- In order to identify why the problem is occurring, it is critical to identify key stakeholders for feedback (i.e. teachers, students, and families) as teams consider potential root causes of the problem.
- Engaging in root cause analysis using processes such as “The 5 Whys” and “The Fishbone Diagram” extends problem solving to identify variables that contribute to identified problems (US Department of Education, 2020). One unique aspect of root cause analysis is the inclusion of key stakeholders (i.e., students, families) as legitimate and equal partners throughout each step of the problem-solving process. In addition, it is important to acknowledge that the root cause analysis process will often lead teams to revise the presumed data summary statement as underlying factors are identified.
- Once schools identify the who, what, when, where, and why of a targeted problem, a goal can be established. The most effective change-oriented goals are observable and measurable, inform the solution and specify (a) what change will occur, (b) by when (date), (c) where (in which context or under which conditions), and (c) how it will be measured (i.e., specific measure or indicator). It is also critical to set realistic goals. For example, if a school currently has 83% of students on track to graduate, then an ambitious but realistic goal of 87% may be set (Flannery, McGrath Kato, Horner, 2019).
- Effective solutions typically emphasize strategies that may include any of the following: (a) prevent future occurrence of the problem; (b) teach specific skills to make successful alternatives more likely, (c) systematically respond by providing explicit feedback, (d) reduce unintentional rewards for problem behavior, and (e) acknowledge positive social emotional and behavioral skills (Chaparro, Horner, Algozzine, Daily & Nese, 2022).
Remember! Effective solution development involves selecting options that:
- match what school staff already do well or can learn and implement with fidelity and timeliness,
- fit with the skills, values, resources, and administrative support that is available, and
- are aligned with the needs, skills, and behavioral function of the identified student(s). (Chaparro, Horner, Algozzine, Daily & Nese, 2022).
As solutions are developed, fidelity measures must also be established. For example, if teachers will be supported to implement increased opportunities to respond, how will we know that this evidence-based practice was implemented in all classrooms as intended? Implementation plans typically describe what will occur, who will be responsible for it, and when, where, and how often it will happen, as well as how fidelity will be monitored. Teams will then establish a schedule to regularly check (a) if they are carrying out the plan as intended, and (b) if the desired outcomes are being achieved (Chaparro, Horner, Algozzine, Daily & Nese, 2022).
- In the evaluation phase of decision making, teams look to answer the questions: “Did it work?” and “What now?” Teams return to the data they initially reviewed, check whether the goal has been met, and whether there has been progress toward improvement (University of Oregon, 2021). Measuring the impact will determine how the team will proceed and whether they will revise their initial plan. Do they continue working toward the goal, or are there modifications that need to be made? Do they need to revise the goal to make it measurable or feasible? Was the plan implemented with fidelity for all students and staff? (University of Oregon, 2021) At this stage, it is again critical to include stakeholder groups in this evaluation process as we look to answer these questions.
As teams plan next steps to establish data informed decision making processes, it will be crucial for staff to consider the 5 factors outlined in this article series. We know that all data tells a story, both quantitative and qualitative, which lead us to ask critical questions. With the large amount of data available to division and school staff, it is necessary to have a plan to use data effectively and efficiently. Ensuring the right people are at the table, through the alignment of teaming structures, and determining the right data each team will need to measure and monitor progress are essential first steps. When teams consider how to present data at the right time and in the right format that is meaningful and user-friendly, data can shape how effectively a team responds. Once these four elements have been considered, the right process will then enable division and school staff to establish effective action plans that ensure a multitiered system of support is implemented with fidelity in order to meet current needs. Teams will be empowered to make well informed decisions for divisions, departments, for schools, school teams, staff, classrooms, students and families.
Chaparro, E. A., Horner, R., Algozzine, B., Daily, J., & Nese, R. N. T. (April 2022). How School Teams Use Data to Make Effective Decisions: Team-Initiated Problem Solving (TIPS). Center on PBIS, University of Oregon. https://www.pbis.org
Flannery, K. B., McGrath Kato, M., Horner, R. H. (September, 2019). Using Outcome Data to Implement Multi-tiered Behavior Support (PBIS) in High Schools. Eugene, OR: OSEP TA Center on PBIS, University of Oregon. Retrieved from https://www.pbis.org
Sandomierski, T., Martinez, S., Webster, R., Winneker, A. & Minch, D. (2022). From “quick fix” to lasting commitment: Using root cause analysis to address disproportionate discipline outcomes, Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth. 66:1, 1-13.
Educational and Community Supports, University of Oregon. (2021). TIPS Team Initiated Problem Solving. Data-based decision making, from https://www.pbis.org/topics/data-based-decision-making
American Institutes for Research. (2023). School improvement. Center on Multi-Tiered Systems of Support. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from https://mtss4success.org/special-topics/school-improvement
US Department of Education. (2020, September 15). Approaches to root cause analysis. Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://oese.ed.gov/resources/oese-technical-assistance-centers/state-support-network/resources/approaches-root-cause-analysis/