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Using Data: Data Inquiry Teams

You know how the old adage goes—two heads are better than one. This applies to data inquiry teams as well. When  a team of professionals meets regularly to analyze student data, to reflect on student progress, and to create action plans, magic can happen. Through this process, teachers can accelerate their ability to improve instructional effectiveness, as well as meet the ever-changing needs of their students. This isn't as easy as it sounds. To do great work, data inquiry teams need the support of school leaders as well as school-wide practices and structures. 

The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than each other. Thomas Stallkamp

Learning Target

I can describe the practices and structures needed for data inquiry teams to analyze and act on data.

Wilson, Graham. The New Yorker, November 29, 2010.

Review: Turning Data into Actionable Knowledge

EL Education, 2014.

Central Beliefs about Data Inquiry Teams in EL Schools: This core EL Education document describes five beliefs about how data inquiry teams analyze and act upon data to improve student achievement. 

  1. How do these beliefs support turning data into actionable knowledge? 

Watch: Grade Level Data Meeting with Third Grade Teachers

In this video, a team of third grade teachers meets to discuss their benchmark data. As you watch this video consider the following: 

  1. Would you describe this team as high-functioning? Why or why not? What structures are in place to support the teams’ interactions?
  2. What school-wide structures and leadership actions support the work of this data inquiry team? 
  3. What impact do you think this work will have on student achievement? Why?

Try It: Using Data Self-Assessment

Data inquiry teams live within a school system that includes the data culture, systems and structures for using data, and students’ interactions with data. The Using Data Self-Assessment (download from this page) can support schools in analyzing the current reality and guiding first steps for improvement. This work was informed by Driven by Data*.

Before you try it with your own school, work with colleagues to norm using the video of the grade level team meeting above. Note: You may not see evidence of all areas of the self-assessment. Use these instances to generate conversation about your inferences and ideas about possible areas for improvement. 

Once you have tried it with the video, assess your own school. What are the current strengths of your school in using data? What areas do you need to work on? 

*Santoyo, Paul. Driven by Data: A Practical Guide to Improve Instruction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010.

Dig Deeper

Structuring and Supporting Data Inquiry Teams: This document contains practical tips for structuring and supporting data inquiry teams including suggestions about membership, the role of the school leaders and leadership team, and process and procedure ideas. 

Springville K-8 Data Inquiry Team Photo Email: At Springville K-8 in Beaverton, Oregon, the principal often sends photo emails to share work going on around the school. Download this one from this page about the work of the third grade data inquiry team. What evidence do you see of the supports in place for this team?

Synthesize & Take Action

For Teachers...

Refer back to your Using Data Self-Assessment. 

  1. What support do you most need to effectively use data? 
  2. What existing practices and structures at your school could be used to support you in using data more effectively? 
  3. Make a plan: What can you take responsibility for doing/ learning to help you to be more effective in using data? 

For School Leaders...

Refer back to your Using Data Self-Assessment

  1. What support do you currently have in place? 
  2. What support will be most important for your school to focus on first? 
  3. Make a plan: How will you address your areas of focus?

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