Hi! We’re Tameka Porter, Kim Good, and Susan Shebby of the Region 11 Comprehensive Center at McREL International. The Region 11 Comprehensive Center serves Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming as they implement evidence-based interventions that support improved educator and student outcomes.
In our partnership with the Nebraska Department of Education, we created a Professional Learning Community that has been exploring ways to use data to make equity-focused decisions that promote positive student outcomes. As evaluators who work with data, we can sometimes be dismayed with how it’s used, discussed, collected, and analyzed. Sometimes data can be hard to understand because it’s layered in terms and jargon. We’re left scratching our heads wondering “What just happened?” “What am I even looking for here?” So, generously borrowing from one of our guest speakers, Heather Krause of We All Count and Datassist, we offer three strategies evaluators can use to help educators use a data-equity lens.
Hop Tip #1:
Demystify how you evaluate data. First, we can demystify data. Jargon can be difficult to navigate, making the steps of the data process, by which we mean understanding, collecting, organizing, analyzing, and interpreting data, tenuous at best. Those of us who live in data become immune to the technical terms, but if we can explain data terms and concepts in accessible and plainspoken terms, we can bridge knowledge gaps and start using data to support equitable student learning outcomes.
We All Count’s Data Speak Decoder is a great resource for being mindful about the words we use when talking about data. University of Southern California’s Glossary of Research Terms can be a launching point for decoding jargon for your evaluation.
Hop Tip #2:
Democratize your evaluation by making data accessibility a priority. Reflecting on one of our Learning Community sessions, we engaged in discussions about who has access to data. We joked that sometimes it exists on high, or that one person has access to it, but if they aren’t in the office, it may be inaccessible. How can you do a meaningful evaluation without data? We can start by democratizing our data. Democratizing data through making our data tools, materials, and resources widely available to those who want and need to access it can make your work technical yet accessible.
Teachers and leaders can use WestEd’s Data-Driven Decision Making Toolkit to take inventory of the data available at their schools.
Hop Tip #3:
Demonstrate your data evaluation knowledge by welcoming multiple perspectives in the process. As evaluators, we want to be on the lookout for any assumptions, interpretations, or conceptual biases we may be introducing into the evaluation process once we receive our data (ideally from a trusted and high-quality source). By demonstrating or sharing what we’ve learned in the data evaluation process, we can step outside of ourselves to think about how our experiences, worldviews, and opinions may shape our evaluations. We can support teachers in our evaluation work by welcoming other perspectives and worldviews other than our own. This can prevent us from making one-sided interpretations of the work that centers ourselves instead of focusing on teacher and student experiences.
IES’ Practitioner Data Use in Schools Workshop, Massachusetts’ District Data Team Toolkit, Five steps for structuring data-informed conversations and action in education, and eight steps to becoming data wise are useful toolkits and resources for demonstrating your knowledge as an informed data consumer and evaluator.
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