10 Questions to Ask Before You Build a Report for Your Schools

When building a report, it’s easy to get lost in your own exploration. But ideally, reports will be used in classrooms, main offices, parent-teacher conferences, and the central office—not just your desk. Make sure your report informs the decisions being made for students by asking the right questions up front.

Start your report with some of these questions;

  • Who will be using it?  Teachers may prefer detailed, student-level data so they can focus on their classrooms. School leaders need to slice school-level data both vertically and horizontally across grade levels and subjects. District leaders often ask for aggregate data they can drill into as necessary. (Tip: think about whether each party’s view should be restricted to his/her own classroom, school, etc. or whether staff should be able to view each other’s data.)
  • What action should they be equipped to take with the data you provide?  Reports, at their best, both inspire and enable action. Your office managers should be able to call truant students’ homes? Include telephone numbers. Principals should be able to coach their teachers mid-semester? Include both classroom performance and growth so they can tailor conversations around trends, not just scores.
  • When and where will they be using it? Think about protecting student information when reports will be used publicly or in meetings. Consider font size, simplicity, and mobile-responsiveness when reports will be used on the go.
  • How often will they want to use it? If it’s everyday data like attendance for office managers, that report is likely to be a must-have, so give them all the details! If it’s annual data (like most state tests), it’s likely to be high stakes, so build in context for in-depth analysis.
  • Where does the data live and how will this report get refreshed? The reports you build are as only as good as the data they convey. If you need fresh data often, consider connecting to a live source like a data warehouse instead of static (and time-consuming) spreadsheets.
  • How are they going to feel when they look at it? Planning a staff meeting? Share low scores in with specific individuals in private beforehand so they aren’t put on the spot– or display data in aggregate and have those conversations later. Avoid bright reds and greens unless you want to convey strong concerns and big wins.
  • Is it intuitive? Not everyone lives and breaths data, so build in guides where others might get confused. Small “click here” text boxes will make a world of difference for those not used to exploreable reports. A short explanation of a RIT score will engage parents whose kids just took NWEA MAP for the first time.
  • What can you take out? Before you publish, edit heavily. After all, if a teacher can’t make sense of it within five minutes over his 7:00am coffee, it won’t get used.
  • Is the data clean? Even if you build a spectacular report, dirty data will render it “broken” to your viewers– especially if you’re debuting it for the first time. Make sure they can trust what they see by reviewing data quality before you share and monitoring regularly.
  • How will you know how to make it better? Formalizing a way for people to share feedback will not only help you improve your reports, it’ll give you well-earned buy-in from your colleagues. If you listen well and respond to their needs, your colleagues will start reaching for your report and asking for even more data insights.

For those of you working on behalf of schools, what would your #11, #12, and #13 be? I’d love to hear how your thoughts might apply to Schoolzilla’s standard reports. Check them out here.