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Ed Eval TIG Week: Nathan Anderson and Amy Engelhard on Transforming Data Frustration into Data Utopia

Hi!  We are Nathan Anderson, Data Management Specialist for Mid-Dakota Education Cooperative, and Amy Engelhard, Data Steward for the state of North Dakota.

We strive to help PK-12 educators move from a “data frustration” mindset to a “data utopia” mindset. More specifically, we collaborate with teachers and administrators to optimize the use of student achievement for purposes of informing individual student instruction, identifying strengths and weaknesses in a classroom, and illuminating trends and gaps across a school district. We often embed the Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) Data Use Standards and the A+ Inquiry framework into our presentations and work sessions as strategies for teaching and facilitating effective data use processes. The SLDS Data Use Standards resource introduces essential knowledge, skills, and professional behaviors. A+ Inquiry is an effective data use framework centering on the premise of awareness, which connects a wheel-like series of stages that make up a thorough inquiry cycle. Stages include absorbing the correct context; asking an essential question; accumulating, accessing, and analyzing the right data; answering the question; announcing the findings; and applying decisions and actions.


Graphic adapted from “Disciplined inquiry: Using the A+ Inquiry framework as a tool for eliminating data hoarding, mindless decision-making, and other barriers to effective ESA programming,” by N. C. Anderson, M. R. Brockel, and T. E. Kana, 2014, Perspectives: A Journal of Research and Opinion About Educational Service Agencies, 20(3).


Lesson Learned: Many teachers and administrators have access to seemingly endless amounts of data they don’t know how to use. When educators access data while first asking strong questions, they are better equipped to find valuable answers and put the data to effective use. Accessing data without first asking a strong question puts many educators at risk for wasting time and other resources on a purposeless data pursuit.  Frequently, this is where the “data frustration” mindset takes hold.

Hot Tip: Use A+ Inquiry as a framework to examine how the SLDS Data Use Standards can look in action and to visually put yourself in the “data utopia” mindset.

Hot Tip: Align your inquiry processes with the SLDS Data Use Standards and A+ Inquiry to reduce mindless decision making, data hoarding, and frustrations affiliated with using data.

Rad Resource: Take a look at the SLDS Data Use Standards resource. The SLDS Data Use Standards Workgroup is in the process of creating new enhancements to the original resource.

Rad Resource: A+ Inquiry was introduced in an article (scroll to No. 4) explaining how an Education Service Agency could apply the framework. We have now adapted the framework for use with student achievement data.

Rad Resource: Check out these A+ Inquiry resources, including a one page handout, presentation with A+ Inquiry slides, and effective data use scenarios written through an A+ Inquiry lens.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Ed Eval TIG Week with our colleagues in the PK12 Educational Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our Ed Eval TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


2 thoughts on “Ed Eval TIG Week: Nathan Anderson and Amy Engelhard on Transforming Data Frustration into Data Utopia”

  1. Krista McDivitt

    Hello Nathan and Amy,
    My name is Krista McDivitt and I am a high school visual art teacher in Regina SK, Canada. Currently I am taking a Master’s class about program evaluation. I must admit that learning about program evaluation can be overwhelming at times. In my day job, I can relate to the “data frustrated” teacher that you outlined in your article. The A+ Inquiry framework is an extremely help resource for educators. It is simple and straight forward. I especially appreciated the link to resources. The graphic organizer and the examples make using this framework simple and accessible. I plan on taking this framework back to my school and sharing it with my colleagues. I can already think of uses for the A+ Inquiry framework in my planning.
    Thank you for the valuable resource and I look forward to seeing how it works for me.

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