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Data Collection and Usage Plan

STRATEGY: Create a data plan that includes the data to be collected and what will be done with it after it is collected.

Schools and districts are complex systems, with many varying and intertwined functioning systems. The common goal of increasing student learning and achievement needs to be comprehensively implemented, monitored, and adjusted for effectiveness. This comprehensive implementation cannot occur in isolation. A plan, including common principles, practices, protocols, and procedures, is necessary for data to be gathered, interpreted, analyzed, and made actionable in a sustainable, long-term manner.


Data is less about the numbers themselves and more about their interpretation. Data becomes more useful when analyzed, contextualized, and tied to actions. A school and/or district data plan that is comprehensive, focuses on a balance of qualitative and quantitative sources, and is committed to looking at and improving the whole child is essential for effective, long-term, and sustainable school improvement.

A data plan—which includes the data to be collected and what will be done with it after it is collected—can be developed using the following framework:


a. Create a team that will both represent the school and/or district community and include individuals who can access and pull necessary data.

b. Identify the data that matters most to the community.

c. Involve community in discussing data.

d. Include the data plan in the communication strategies for the school and/or district.


a. Identify different types of data to assess student performance.

b. Target student achievement gaps.

c. Identify efficient and accurate data collection methods.

d. Create consistent analysis procedures, protocols, and policies.

e. Develop effective accountability systems.

f. Use a balance of qualitative and quantitative sources.

g. Establish common language of data analysis, interpretation, and action through the use of commonly used protocols, procedures, and policies.


a. Base the data plan on the “inquiry cycle” (via Annenberg Institute for School Reform):

  • Establish desired outcomes.
  • Define the questions.
  • Collect and organize data.
  • Make meaning of the data.
  • Take action.
  • Assess and evaluate actions.

b. Use multiple assessment and non-assessment measures when evaluating student performance.


a. Data should become an embedded component in every professional learning community (PLC), team meeting, faculty meeting, and any other opportunity where teachers and administrators come together to discuss students, school improvement, school success, etc.

b. Effectiveness of data use, analysis, and actionable steps taken as a result should be reviewed, assessed, and adjusted biannually, at a minimum.

First Steps to Consider

A well-designed, comprehensive, and actionable data plan is focused more on the people involved than on the data extracted. Taking the time to bring together and train a data team to facilitate and lead the data plan in the school and throughout the district is the first and most important step to making the data plan and a data-driven decisionmaking culture embedded into the school and/or district.

  • Research, field-test, and evaluate the effectiveness of specific protocols to develop a common language of data-driven decisionmaking across the school and/or district. Make these protocols the default protocols for teams to follow when analyzing and discussing data. Establishing this common language allows all involved parties to communicate clearly and understand the results of the analysis better and without additional needed explanations, which will move the analysis to an actionable step faster.
  • Start with quantitative data that is easily recognizable and understandable by the participants involved.
  • Take action and make sure that the action is visible and applicable to all. This helps build immediate credibility to the system and data plan.

Complexities & Pitfalls

  • Qualitative data analysis is time consuming and more difficult, but the results and information are far better and greater for comprehensive school reform and improvement.
  • If the data plan does not explicitly turn the analysis and interpretation into action, then it is destined to become just another binder on the office shelf.

Guiding Questions

  • How might the school or district ensure that staff are receiving the appropriate time and opportunities for professional learning related to data analysis, interpretation, and implementation?
  • How is it determined that the data plan is effective?
  • To what extent are the data plan’s protocols, procedures, and practices implemented and used consistently across the school and/or district?
  • How might the data plan be adapted to better meet the needs of the school and/or district?