Five Hiring Practices to Build Your Data-Driven District Culture

 There is growing consensus that schools need so much more than annual standardized test scores to understand students and inform the teaching and learning processes. To holistically understand and help students, numerous classroom-level assessments that span different question types and delivery methods – along with behavior, attendance, intervention, and a host of other data points – require attention.

This increasing demand for thoughtful data use in schools drives the need to build out school-level and central office teams with data-friendly attitudes and data-savvy skills.

Below are five hiring practices to help strengthen your district’s data-driven culture

  1. Cultivate Data Champions at all levels of your district.11396380473_26f323b1e4_z

Data initiatives that are solely top down have limited impact and staying power. Instead, cultivate a true data-driven culture by staffing your organization at all levels with people who truly believe in the value of using data to inform decisions. Whether you are hiring a central office staff member, an IT pro, an instructional coach, a teacher, or a principal, screen for his or her belief that data matters.

2.  Screen for “datatude” and coachability.

Your school’s next willing, eager data user may not be a spreadsheet and database ninja the day you meet him or her. When interviewing, probe for candidates’ “datatude” – their attitudes about data-driven decision making. Teaching a new hire how to use software is relatively easy if he or she is already philosophically on board with the vision of thoughtful data use. The slide above might help in thinking through what to screen for based on roles.

3. Creatively fund the hiring of dedicated Data Champion(s).

While you need data lovers at all levels of your school, dedicated Data Champions can drive particularly complex network-wide analysis, assist school-level staff in working with their own data, help set up and maintain your data systems, and train staff to use your data tools. In short, they can make it easier for everyone else to LIKE using their data. Here are two great examples of job descriptions for data-focused roles from KIPP:Metro Atlanta and the Syracuse City School District.

Because data-driven decision making has recently gained so much attention in education, foundations and philanthropies are eager to fund initiatives that incorporate thoughtful data use.

If your district is securing grant funding for a career and technical education initiative, for example, make sure to include a portion of a Data Champion’s salary in your proposal, as they will help track and analyze the program’s effectiveness.

4. Train your staff to interview for data aptitude.

Arm your personnel in hiring positions with the tools they need to screen for datatude, analytical skills, and technology skills by creating interview materials specific to each role. These tools could include:

• Rubrics that assess data aptitude

• Data-based case studies

• Role play scenarios

In addition to the sample interview questions in the slide above, this Department of Education report contains some useful sample data sets, accompanying questions, and response rubrics on pages 71-102.   

5.  Use interviews to establish trust and set expectations.

Use the interview as an opportunity to show your candidates that:

• Your organization thoughtfully uses data for good, not evil. Make it clear that data is leveraged as a valuable tool to help students and improve practices, and underscore that that mindset means looking at more than annual state test scores.

• Be transparent and upfront during the interview about your expectations for data use. You might share that, “Our teachers conduct one-on-one reading assessments at least once per quarter and collaborate with the literacy coach on instructional plans informed by the results.”

• Watch for nods of agreement and enthusiasm that suggest, “Great! I’d have it no other way!” or surprised raised eyebrows and signs of reluctance, such as, “Wow, really? That often?”

By incorporating these five strategies into your hiring practices, you can strengthen your district’s data-driven culture and – most importantly – increase your impact on students.

Helpful resources:

Sample interview data sets, accompanying questions, and response rubrics on pgs. 71-102 of this Department of Education report

Sample job description for Manager, Data Strategy at KIPP:Metro Atlanta

Sample job description for Data Analyst, Syracuse City School District

Sample job description for 1st-Grade Teacher, Aspire Public Schools

A public elementary school principal’s blog post on her Journey to Create a Data-Driven School Culture