How Does Data Management Impact Practitioner Decision Making?: Illustrations from Three Case Studies

In this 28-page publication, the authors present a general model for data collection and analysis that had been implemented into a number of charter schools. The first step is to collect data that are complete, valid, and reliable. The second step is to develop descriptive tools to use the data, and the third step is to connect the data to school decisions. The authors illustrate their model through three case studies, then conclude with two lessons learned as follows:

  • Develop data capture, process, and storage requirements through iterative and incremental use case conversations with schools; and
  • With the right tools, district staff can understand a school well enough to support meaningful decision-making at the student level.  
Content Comments 

The purposes of this publication are best illustrated in the article's title: "How Does Data Management Impact Practitioner Decisionmaking? Illustrations from Three Case Studies." Given that two of the case studies were not yet completed by the time of publication, this resource doesn't totally meet that purpose. But it does make some excellent points, especially in the first case study in which the school district established a monthly closing date for data collection, thus preventing delays that impede many school programs. The lessons from that case study too were quite valuable. The authors write: 

"Three other strategies also contributed to the success of implementing a monthly data close. First, we started small. The amount of data included in the initial monthly data close spreadsheet was limited to allow school staff to ease into the process. Second, we built time into the Research, Evaluation and Data team’s schedule to allow one team member to devote one day at each school during the week of the data close to answer questions in person. Lastly, we celebrated each school’s success loudly and enthusiastically over email and through events."

Communications quality is acceptable, although there is some repetition and the publication's design is very basic. Utility should be reasonable high, especially for districts and schools that are in the early stages of data collection programs or who simply want to learn from other school experiences. Evidence of effectiveness is not provided but a possible impact on learning is possible.  Perhaps of special interest is that the case study schools described typically serve very disadvantaged students with high drop-out rates.