Once you have assessed your school’s readiness to use data, you need to create a team to lead new data use initiatives if the school does not have one already. Building a culture for data use in your school involves a collaborative commitment. Staff need to understand, support, and value using data in decision making. Most importantly, participants have to trust that data will be used to support planning and improvement decisions that best meet student needs. Forming this team means identifying the right people to lead your effort.

Use the Team Roles and Team Composition Tools to plan who should be on your data team. You may want to complete this after choosing a Focus Area so that you can include those most concerned with it. Or you can prioritize the inclusion of people who want to work on school improvement more generally.

Establish Trust and Respect

Your plan for data-driven projects should be designed with consideration for the different needs and perspectives of those participating. Teachers and others are more like to buy in to an initiative when value for their participation is expressed. As busy professionals, their time, commitment, and effort need to be recognized. They need to know that their work will contribute to school improvement decisions and that their own practice may be enhanced. Provide real-life examples of how data-driven projects are working in schools and how the results are used in planning and improvement decisions.

Clear Expectations

Participants should be clear on what their roles will be in the project. How much time is required? What are the work expectations? Can they help decide how results will be used? To reduce perceived risk and surprise, be upfront about the anticipated investment of time and energy. To help ease anxiety, establish how being on a data team will assist participants throughout the decision-making process. Specifically describe the help they will receive in formulating goals, implementing activities, and use of any assessments.

Participants need to know the various ways that data can be used to effect change and how data for their particular problem, project, or issues will be handled and applied in the decision making process. Further, highlight how this work can be expected to impact their own practice and professional development. The potential impact can be seen as a reward or incentive for participation.

Power of a Team

The data-use process can afford opportunities for exchanging knowledge and skills and learning together as a group. Identify potential “data mentors” who can illustrate data-use experiences with team members. By highlighting shared responsibility in the process, concerns over how to contribute or being overworked can be reduced. Team members can be seen as resources for information and support. It is important to assist participants to realize how much they already know about data and how professional growth can expand by becoming more fluent in data-use. In addition, data-use creates clear accountability in making improvement decisions.

Supportive Leadership

Participants are more likely to buy in to data use when they feel supported by school leadership. Discuss what ways in which the leadership will provide ongoing data work support and resources (e.g., assistance from coaches or lead teachers, additional professional development, conference attendance opportunities). It is also important to talk about plans that leadership may have for becoming involved in larger schoolwide reform efforts.

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