The use of data in strategic planning for school districts typically results in a formal, written, and structured strategic plan that charts the organization’s future for a specified number of years. The data is used to identify the struggling of school districts in order to direct assistance to them. Huber (2010) says that through value-based leadership, change agents in school districts can charge their colleagues to work together on achievable goals by using performance data to make decisions. Specifically focusing on data, educational institutions can identify the appropriate goals, implement professional development geared to the accomplishment of the goals, and monitor progress (Huber, 2010). School district leaders should be committed to the need to develop the capacity of school personnel to use student assessment and other performance data to inform collective decisions about school improvement plans and programming to meet student needs without turning to the outside expertise.
According to Leithwood & Seashore-Louis (2011), data is used to assess organizational effectiveness through establishing meaningful goals for the improvement of student performance that is aligned with system’s wide curriculum and accountability requirements. They further noted that the data enables school systems to learn more about their effectiveness, pinpoint successes and challenges, identify areas of improvement, and help evaluate the effectiveness of school district programs and practices (Leithwood & Seashore-Louis, 2011).
Data plays a significant role in the implementation of school district plans to realize their goals. This is achieved by developing structures to enable the interchange of information about performance and plans for improvement between central office and school. Leithwood & Seashore-Louis (2011) say that the data helps to identify core processes in schools, define student and parent requirements, and measure current performance of students. The data also assists school district leaders to prioritize, analyze, and implement goals. Leithwood & Seashore-Louis (2011) also noted that the data provides the opportunity to significantly transform school districts in a strategic, data-driven, goal and results-oriented manner ultimately resulting in raising and sustaining academic performance.
The Types of Data that Should be Collected and Utilized for District Planning
Formative and summative data on student achievement can be used throughout the district to pursue the improvement of student learning. Formative evaluation is the collection of data during a program. On the other hand, summative evaluation focuses on the results or students’ outcomes of a program. Sykes, Schneider & Plank (2009) noted that student achievement data can be used for various purposes, including evaluating progress toward state and district standards, monitoring student progress, evaluating where assessments coverage and diverge, and judging the efficacy of local curriculum and instructional practices.
Instructional program is evaluated through the use of empirical and assessment data. This data is used to improve instruction in schools and provide critical support for formative assessment practices of teachers and principals by developing local benchmark assessments that are closely aligned with state and district curriculum expectations (Leithwood & Seashore-Louis, 2011). Data from instructional groups can be collected from the whole class, small groups, pairs, and individuals. Assessment data is used in instructional program to provide information about the student’s instructional needs. Based on the assessment data, teachers can make decisions about the most appropriate group size, composition, materials, purposes, and leadership to meet students’ instructional needs (Sykes, Schneider & Plank, 2009).
To measure organizational effectiveness, school district leaders should use annual local, district, and state test scores (Reeves, 2004). They should also evaluate their school district effectiveness through the analysis of annual state and district test data with monthly analysis of classroom assessments. Reeves (2004) noted that assessing school district should be done through carefully reviewing and analyzing district and school data from test score reports, demographic analyses and attendance reports. In order to plan and evaluate school district programs, leaders should hold meetings with individual schools to explain assessment data and network schools with similar demographics but varying achievement levels. Data should be used as a means to identify directions for professional development in schools.
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