As a superintendent, I found that helping people determine what data was needed to analyze the “as is” state in their school had to be an intentional process.  I sometimes got the look that said, “Are you kidding me? What does THAT have to do with our school improvement efforts?” After the data was collected and analyzed in relation to its impact on the school and efforts to improve student achievement, the “aha” moment always resulted. It is important that a baseline be established by critically looking at all data to determine what has possibly impacted student achievement. In addition, it is not until all data is disaggregated in various ways that the puzzle pieces can be combined to reveal the whole picture.

Many times we forget that data other than test scores can impact factors that do affect what is happening with students, teachers, or the community. Although the school cannot control all the factors in a child’s life, intentionally identifying and analyzing those factors that are in or out of the control of the school can help in determining all the players and their impact so that interventions selected will have the best chance of success. Knowing all the factors in the school’s reality helps school improvement teams understand the barriers that are impacting the work.

The factors we cannot control cannot become excuses. They simply help the school work around those uncontrollable factors to still make a difference with all children. Just as we teach compensation skills to children with disabilities, we compensate for those things that we cannot control to improve, because failure is not an option in the business of educating children.

What data do you collect and analyze so that you have all the pieces to the puzzle in school improvement? Are you critically analyzing that data to determine a valid baseline so that progress can be determined?