Why School Districts Should Prioritize Data Analytics

The use of data analytics has exploded in recent years, as industries across the board clamor to figure out how to best utilize new tools. That rush includes schools and education leaders as they also work to integrate data analytics into the learning environments they oversee. Making sense of large data sets requires specific types of literacy and skills.


Understanding and applying data is a component of the Master of Education in Educational Leadership online program at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU). Graduates of the online program will be equipped with data analytics knowledge to develop instructional practices that better address student learning needs, as well as identify problems and devise solutions.


The Importance of Data for School Leaders

Data helps school leaders monitor and measure a variety of metrics, which can highlight issues and indicate solutions. Looking at data can be a way to see the whole picture and spot patterns for a given school or district.


The School Superintendents Association (AASA) touts data as a crucial tool for today’s education leaders. AASA outlined the use of data for key effectiveness indicators including:


  • Content standards
  • Curricular and instructional alignment
  • School climate
  • Family and community involvement
  • Resource allocation


Data analysis can help education leaders to better measure performance and respond accordingly in these areas and more.


Where to Start With Data

As a first step, AASA suggests outlining a school or district’s mission, then using the key components of the mission to set strategic goals they can measure with data. This approach helps to ensure that the information being collected aligns with the values of the schools, while informing the goals and measuring progress.


Data isn’t just test scores or letter grades, either. Education leaders should consistently consult teachers and other instructors for input, as their experience can help to strengthen the data measuring process or even identify different metrics to track. Using the knowledge of the entire school community, from administrators to parents, helps give context to and better understand data.


How Data-Informed Approaches Can Improve Effectiveness

In a 2019 research report, the Center for Public Education (CPE) outlined eight characteristics of  effective school boards, and one of them is data savviness. Specifically, CPE wrote: “Effective boards … embrace and monitor data, even when the information is negative, and use it to drive continuous improvement.”


The second portion of that statement underlines the importance of data literacy when gleaning information from data sets. A willingness to parse large amounts of information is often necessary for extracting useful takeaways. A lack of understanding could cause data to be misinterpreted, leading to incorrect conclusions.


Negative outcomes, although not ideal, should not be ignored or excused, as they are equally as instrumental in the assessment process. They can also help educators identify issues sooner rather than later, giving educators an opportunity to intervene or change course before the problem worsens.


According to CPE research, districts with higher achievement rates “were not afraid to confront negative data and, in fact, used it as a basis to improve teaching and learning.” When combined with input from instructors, negative data offers a window into practices or techniques that might not be working and shows the way for practical solutions.


FGCU’s online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program equips educators with the necessary skills to utilize data analytics. Its College of Education is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), signaling the program’s adherence to national standards for educator preparation.


Learn more about Florida Gulf Coast University’s online Master of Education in Educational Leadership program.

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