Maximizing Achievement Through Data

School leaders across the nation are increasingly citing “data-driven instruction” as a mainstay tool for student achievement. RSD17 has followed suit and is seeing positive returns from the practice.

But what exactly is data-driven instruction and why is it important for student success? We asked RSD17’s two School of Distinction principals, Dennis Reed and Brienne Whidden, to explain it.

When you hear the words "data-driven instruction", what does that mean to you?

Dennis: To me, “data-driven instruction” means making informed decisions. Educators make hundreds of critical decisions throughout the course of each day. When you introduce “data-driven” into these decisions, we are more informed and intentional about our time with students.

Brienne: Data also drives decisions I make around curricular adjustments, professional development, instructional feedback to teachers, and goal setting. However, while data-driven instruction is critical, that does not mean that we see our students as data points. There are many aspects of children that cannot be accurately measured by formal data sets. We work very hard to consider the whole child.

When did data-driven instruction become a focus at RSD17?

Dennis: Data-driven instruction has always been a focus, but we have had a renewed energy and emphasis on it as we work to respond to learning loss associated with the pandemic.

Brienne: One example is that this year we’ve put our efforts into examining data in data teams in order to make decisions regarding next steps in instruction for individual students, classes, and grade levels.

What types of data are you using?

Brienne: We use a wide variety of data when making instructional decisions including formal district assessments, anecdotal teacher notes, progress monitoring data, quizzes, and student work samples. In addition to academic data, we also consider behavioral data and social emotional data as well.

How do you use data to inform instruction?

Dennis: We are so fortunate to have talented educators on staff who have become experts in connecting the data to the progression of skills and content within the standards. This provides them with a roadmap of what the students need next.

Brienne: We also use data to inform small group instruction within the classroom and to reflect on how effective a lesson was and whether to reteach and revisit the skill, or move forward with instruction.

What are the benefits of data-driven decision-making in education?

Dennis: It creates a collaborative culture of professionals who work together, share their expertise, and learn from one another, ultimately leading to greater levels of student achievement.

Brienne: It also levels the playing field for all students. Teachers have a better understanding of student progress and can personalize the learning experience. Data driven instruction is the best way to ensure that students are gaining and mastering the skills they need to be successful in the future.