Why become a Data-Driven, Decision-Making Organization?

The ultimate goal of a data-driven, decision-making district is to improve student outcomes. This means collecting, analyzing, and responding to relevant data to improve teaching and learning. A data-driven, decision-making district is focused on results and develops a culture of collective responsibility for improving student outcomes.

So when you think of being a data-driven, decision-making organization, what might that look and sound like?  Why might it be important to let data guide all decisions? What data should be used at the district, building, grade/department, and classroom levels to guide decisions?   What does it mean to focus on the focus? How might that apply to problem finding and problem-solving?  

There are many hypothetical questions that we would LOVE to assume our stakeholders know the answer to . . . and yet even though we might think we know the answers, as organizations, we typically are not very good at using data to drive our decisions and actions at scale. 

Let’s start with the focus question: what does it mean to focus on the focus? According to Mike Schmoker in his book Focus, “Priority is a function of simplicity, and it dictates that we only focus on a few things at a time — namely, on those elements that are most likely to help us achieve our goals.” (p 14-15). Schmoker lifts a very critical point . . . “help us achieve our goals” . . . so with that being said, it’s important to have a few measurable goals where we use data to monitor progress and adjust course.  All decisions/actions should be based on the district’s goals.  

One way to think through becoming a data-driven, decision-making organization is to begin with the end in mind . . . in other words, what are the district’s priorities (short term and long term)?  Where do you want students to be at the end of the 2019-2020 school year academically and non-academically? Your district, more than likely, has already defined these priorities through your needs assessment and would be identified in the district and school improvement plans.  

As we assess those district priorities and continue to look at our data, we need to determine the main non-academic and academic goals for our students.  In other words, asking some very critical questions: What is the goal? What actions are connected to achieving this goal? What strategies/practices are going to move us toward our goals? And, what adult actions do we want to see that will produce tangible, measurable outcomes?

It is also important that all meetings be meaningfully connected to the identified priorities and goals.  What is happening every day in collaborative meetings to get us to a certain point weekly? Monthly?

This should sound familiar and be reminiscent of the Blueprint driver systems.  What connections might be made to the Performance Management (PMDS) and Problem-Solving Driver Systems (PSDS)?