Try googling “data-driven professional development.” That’s what I did this morning and it yielded over nine million results. But what’s all the buzz about? What kind of data is important to capture? And how can that data be used to drive professional development?
Let’s start by defining what we mean by “data-driven.” I found a few definitions, but thought this one might be worth sharing: “Data-driven means that progress in an activity is compelled by data, rather than by intuition or personal experience.” This EdSurge report points to data-driven professional development as one remedy for traditional one-size-fits-all solutions that don’t work. And we see data-driven activities all over the place—not just in education. There’s a reason why politicians like to cite statistics when they’re trying to build momentum for a new initiative. Data provide numbers, and numbers are objective, concrete, and give us something to strive for.
When it comes to early childhood education, there’s a lot of data collection going on. A quick perusal of the Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) Compendium outlines systems using data-yielding assessments, including environmental ratings assessments and teacher interactions assessments. This article from Science asked whether QRIS ratings could predict children’s learning; and while safe environments are essential for quality programs, the article found that the measurement of classroom interactions give us the greatest indicator for children’s learning.
So we know programs are collecting data and we know it is important to collect data that measures interactions. Now the question becomes: What do we do with it—and how can we use this information to drive real results?
When it comes to using CLASS data to inform professional development, Teachstone recommends empowering coaches to make strengths-based recommendations to teachers. For example, rather than choosing professional development resources geared to a teacher’s lowest scores, a strengths-based decision might involve focusing on a dimension where there is a mix of effectiveness. From a data angle, this might mean recommending professional development resources aimed at improving a score of 3, rather than jumping right into raising that low score of 1. We have lots of free resources, including our coaching e-book, to help coaches and leaders learn more about using data to support teacher improvement.
Of course, this is just one example of how coaches and leaders use data to drive meaningful decisions about professional development. How does your organization currently use data?
In the wake of the widespread civil unrest after the killing of George Floyd, the national conversation about the inequities in the educational opportunities provided white students and students of color has been amplified. Due to racial and socioeconomic segregation, Black students, and other students of color, are more likely to attend poorly funded schools. EdBuild, a non-profit focused on fair and equitable school funding, reports that high poverty school districts that predominantly enroll children of color receive on average, $1,600 less per student than the national average. By their calculations, there is a $23,000,000,000 gap between funding for schools that primarily serve high poverty Black students and those that predominantly serve white students. Schools that predominantly serve high poverty white students, only receive $1440 less per student (EdBuild, 2019).
CLASS allows us to quantify the quality of teacher-child interactions—and that is a powerful thing. But improving child outcomes takes more than just data collection; it’s what you do with the data that really matters.
Here are 4 things you should know about using data to improve student outcomes.
A few years into teaching early childhood, I applied to work at a school that does incredible work in the local community. I was thrilled to get an interview but realized very quickly that, even though the environment was supportive and the students were wonderful young people, I was much too intimidated to work there.