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Districts Making Smart, Data-Based Decisions

In December, we acknowledged the Meriden Public Schools for its innovative use of data to drive decision-making. When a district integrates regular data analysis into its teaching and leadership practices, the whole community can start to make informed decisions about what’s working for kids. And, when we conducted an analysis of Meriden’s data and IT systems in 2013, we learned that Meriden is really using some creative approaches to monitoring the well-being, academic outcomes, and progress of its teachers.

That’s why we collaborated with the district to produce a website that highlights some of Meriden’s achievements and also provides other district leaders with a starting point for self-reflection and improvement of their own data and IT systems. This Data Systems Guidebook contains a self-evaluation tool that we really hope will facilitate discussions among district-level school leaders about data and IT systems. (Don’t worry: the site does not save any of the data. We can’t see your responses when you fill out the evaluation. It’s for your internal use only!) The self-evaluations are broken out into three areas that are critical to ensuring sound data practices: district-wide practices, school-level practices, and technology infrastructure. Although the self-evaluations are the website’s focus, this tool is not meant to be used for strictly evaluative purposes. Ultimately, we hope districts will use this tool to develop priorities for improvement in the areas of data and IT.

As an example, let’s take a look at the first area, District Performance.

As you can see, this chapter is divided into several subsections—topics that districts will need to consider if they’re going to develop well-thought-out district-level data systems. The first sub-section is about strategic planning.

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Within the Strategic Planning sub-section, you’ll find a series of “yes” and “no” questions that help district leaders to think about the way their data and IT systems are currently working. As you navigate through each sub-section, your results will tally into a printable report that you can share with your leadership team. Really, it’s just a starting point for internal conversations. Do we agree upon what we’re doing well? What we can do better?

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Also, within each of these sub-sections are a plethora of useful resources that we hope will clarify the concepts presented in the self-evaluation! You can see real examples of how others have undertaken these same practices, and consider whether they’ll work in your district.

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In addition to these evaluation tools, rubrics, and resources, there’s a fourth chapter about Meriden Innovations, which features videos highlighting six of the district’s innovations in data and IT.

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Here’s an example of the types of videos you’ll find on the site:

Note on Data Privacy:

We know that there are a lot of concerns about data privacy these days, but just to reiterate: If you use this site, no external entity will be collecting any identifying information about you or any of your results. The site also does not ask for any specific information about any students. None of the data that you input is stored or recorded anywhere. It’s purely an informational tool for your use with your team! Enjoy!

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