Investigating the Role of Data-driven Decision-making Processes in School Improvement

Year: 2017

Author: Fernandes, Venesser

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In a growing performance-based accountability context, there is an ever growing canvas of school improvement strategies and a multitude of school data available on the basis of which informed decisions are expected to be made. Data holds a central place in the current discourse on school reform. Most school leaders find the task of unravelling these data sets and using it for school improvement, a significant challenge and many have confessed to shying away from it. Research indicates that through a better understanding of what data-driven decision-making is, schools make better use of their data for school improvement (Ballaco, 2010; Renshaw et al, 2013; Smeed et al, 2011). "Data in the context of schools is information that is collected and organized to represent some aspects of schools that are being studied" (Lai and Schildkamp, 2013, p.9). Hansen, Gentry and Dalley (2003, p.40) discuss that a data-driven school will include the following elements: shared leadership and responsibility? a mission that identifies its goal and purpose as a learning community? a cadre of leaders, learners, inquirers, and worriers? the identifying of critical issues, essential questions, and focus problems - problem identification? a planning strategy to collect data and information - problem solving? a process for implementation - action plans? resources and time sufficient to engage and to complete the task? feedback and recycling of the experience? reporting and sharing data and experience and, repeating and continuing the process of data collection, use and change. In other words, while upfront it would seem that data-driven decision-making processes are in effect processes that have emerged through performance-based accountability models of school improvement that focus narrowly on increasing student learning outcomes, this paper will seek to identify the social climate that exists when these processes are used to bring about deeper and lasting change within school contexts. Through a review of research literature, the author will identify models of data-driven decision-making practice (Barnes, 2004; Bernhardt, 2003; Boudett, 2006; Love, 2004; Schildkamp and Handelzalts, 2011; Schildkamp & Ehren, 2013) being used within school contexts and identify factors that support or hinder the use of data-driven decision-making processes. The synthesis will ascertain the importance of the social contexts developed within schools where data is used to create positive learning environments for students, parents, teachers, school leaders and the overall school community. In short, can the power of data-driven decision-making be effectively harnessed to develop positive learning environments within schools today?