Back-to-School Data Wins: Tip #3 Demonstrate You’re on Their Side

We are back with the next Back-to-School Data Win.  If you’re just catching up now, check out Tip #1 Clean Slate with Clean Data and Tip #2 Build in Data Literacy Basics.


Tip #3: Demonstrate that You’re on Their Side

Many educators and school system staff have an uneasy relationship with data. Maybe it’s been used to penalize or judge them in the past. Perhaps it’s intimidating. Or it may simply feel disconnected from the other work they do on a daily basis. Whatever the case may be, assume that some of your colleagues don’t feel as comfortable with data as you do. And, until they trust the data you give them itself, show them that they can trust you

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Surprises can make people feel nervous or disregarded, so put them at ease by setting expectations clearly multiple times in a few different venues.
  • Share data before meetings. Everyone processes differently, let folks review results and generate questions before a live discussion. This is especially true for high-stakes data: with the element of surprise eliminated, everyone will have more emotional and mental bandwidth to engage constructively.
  • Save them time. What’s the single most precious resource in a school or central office? Ask around and your winner might well be: time! Find the data tasks that consume a lot of time and offer them a solution! 
  • Express data quality confidence, not perfection. You want your audience to trust their data— but data quality is an ongoing process, and you need help to uncover errors! Walk the line between confidence and humility, and provide a clear process for reporting data errors.
  • Make conservative promises. It’s tempting to agree to everything asked of you, but exceeding modest expectations is much better than scrambling to meet ambitious ones.
  • Respond to all feedback. Even if you can’t give an answer set expectations for when you can. If you have to decline, explain why and offer a work-around. In all cases, thank people for their suggestions––this is what data engagement looks like, so ask them to keep it up!
  • Act on data insights. Someone used data and found an opportunity to improve. Hurray!  But your job is not yet done; now reward their efforts with action. One school district in South Carolinian made a special effort to act upon the observations and ideas that principals found in their data. “Principals quickly noticed that girls were performing at higher levels than boys in English language arts, and boys were performing at higher levels than girls in math”, their testing coordinator recalled. “In response, the district brought in a consultant who’s showing teachers new techniques for more effective math instruction.”

Back-to-School Data Wins: Tip #2 Build in Data Literacy Basics

Hopefully you learned about how to get a good start to the school year with clean data from last week’s Back-to-School Data Wins Tip #1 Clean Slate with Clean Data.

Tip #2: Build in Data Literacy Basics

This week we’re focused on data literacy basics.  We can’t assume that everyone in the room is immediately familiar with a scale score…or even a small n-size. Set your entire team up for success by building in data literacy instruction that helps make insights clear to all.

  • Choose intuitive systems. You can make a big difference from the beginning by picking displays that feel natural on sight. For example, anyone in the U.S. is likely to understand “stoplight colors”: green for at grade level or above, yellow for at-risk, and red or pink for below grade level. 
  • Create intuitive reports. If you’re designing  homemade visualizations, make it clear which information they display, what they’re used for, and what data points indicate. For example, label reports with the questions they answer (e.g. “how many students in each grade were absent this week?”)
  • Scaffold data interpretation. During data days, meetings, or presentations, demonstrate what you see in the data, what you conclude, and what questions you’ll ask as a result. Then transition to an analysis tool like the 8 Essential Questions. It’ll help your team develop a curious attitude about data.
  • Differentiate instruction. Just as with students, adults don’t learn in the same ways. So offer information in different forms: consider live trainings, staff portals, office hours, support lines, or a help email.  The easier you make it for all learners to improve their data use, the more they will.

Back-to-School Data Wins: Tip #1 Clean Slate with Clean Data

Back-to-school is a great time to start the year off on the right foot when it comes to data. Why? You’re welcoming new students who will learn new things in new classrooms with new teachers. What’s more, your staff is also thinking about this year as turning over a new leaf. They must learn to effectively support many new students as soon as possible.

You have a fresh start, both with your data and with the people who use it. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing a series of back-to-school tips for data leaders who want to make the most of the season.

Back-to-school season can be hectic, but putting in the extra effort with your data will make for a great year to come. The more you lay the right groundwork now, the more your district will be able to access, understand, analyze, and act on it!

Let’s get started with Tip #1: Clean Slate with Clean Data:

Before you share data with anyone, you need to be confident that it’s accurate. That’s especially true now because your colleagues’ first experience with the data can have a lasting impact. If they can’t trust it at the beginning, it may be hard to regain that confidence later in the year.

Of course, every school has some data issues! That’s natural. The trick is to set up systems––both high-tech and people-powered––to minimize errors in your data. Plus, most of these practices will save your data team time as well!

  • Set-up automated systems. Whenever possible, choose a single source of truth so data entry has to be done only once. That might mean using a roster-syncing service like Clever or an SSO provider like Okta, Active Directory, OneLogin, or Google.
  • Choose live integrations over static ones. Regular data refreshes (whether via API, ODBC, FTP, or some other form) prevent data sets frozen in time from creating version control issues.
  • Choose products that match records based on multiple data points.  For example, if your data warehouse matches SIS and assessment data on either a student ID or a state ID, then you don’t have to worry as much about missing student IDs in your assessment platform. Although you may want to go back and correct that, this feature means more accurate data in the meantime. 
  • Cultivate data neatniks. Align on the reporting level needed before creating data entry norms. Doing so will help you straddle the tension between educator autonomy and organization-wide reporting that often results in either poor data quality or a lack of investment in data entry procedures. 
  • Consider how data could help day-to-day.  Do the people managing data entry utilize those data too? With a clear understanding of the consequences of poor data quality, you’re likely to see higher engagement in proper data entry.
  • Hire for attention to detail, experience with databases, and a strong sense of ownership.  Develop high-quality trainings and documentation, especially if you have high turnover in data entry positions. Be sure to make troubleshooting tips and helpline supports clear alongside data entry instructions.

September is Attendance Awareness Month

September is Attendance Awareness Month and we hope you take some time to reflect on what you can do to help get your students to school every day.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the national average a student spends in a classroom is 6.7 hours a day. Research from our friends at Attendance Works indicates that missing just 2 days of school a month means a child misses 10% instruction time for the school year.  Student attendance is one of the most common predictors of academic achievement and it is critical that students attend school, on time, every day in order to gain the greatest benefit from their education.

We want to partner with you to make attendance a priority all year long so you can help your students build a habit of good attendance early and often.  Good attendance contributes to students doing well in school and eventually the workplace.

Below are just a few ways Schoolzilla’s Mosaic can help you track trends in attendance and understand where you can provide support within your district’s schools and classrooms. For more information, talk to us today!



*All images of above contain fake data and real ways you can look at it in Mosaic.