In this brief Educational Leadership article, the authors draw from their personal experiences to illustrate the value of answering essential questions prior to data collection. They examine three components of systematic data use: data quality, data capacity, and data culture. Each component is defined, then illustrated and supported by a specific case experience from the subject of literacy.
The authors of this article clearly define their purposes and meet them, drawing largely on their own experiences in helping schools and districts to develop effective data use programs. Their key point, that schools should ask specific questions before data collection, is well made. Collecting data and asking questions later often leads to delays, wasted time, and problems that could have otherwise been avoided. While the supporting evidence of their main points is mostly anecdotal, the authors present it reasonably and in an unbiased manner. Communications quality is good, although the text spacing is rather tight. This article makes key recommendations that should be helpful to school data use programs, including initial efforts or well underway projects. Evidence of effectiveness is not provided, but the authors' deep experience and the examples provided suggest a potential effect on learning.