Using data for program improvement: How do we encourage schools to do it?
Although most school districts and schools are routinely involved in data collection, they do not typically use the data they collect in a systematic fashion to identify strengths and weaknesses and develop improvement strategies. One reason for the lack of data use is the perception that the data are being collected for someone else's purposes. Without taking steps to gather systematic, representative information, data collected in this way may lead to inappropriate conclusions and actions. State-provided data often do not lead to local improvement for a variety of similar reasons. Program evaluations are another source of information on local educational performance, but expert research is often ignored or devalued. Locally developed performance indicator systems offer a promising strategy for establishing a data-based program improvement process in districts and schools. By encouraging local educators to articulate their goals and involving them in deciding how to measure their performance on the goals, one model, "At Your Fingertips," ensures that indicator systems will be relevant to local educational objectives. This program improvement process follows six steps: (1) identify goals; (2) identify related outcomes, practices, and inputs; (3) identify data sources; (4) development indicators for outcomes, practices, and inputs; (5) examine and interpret data; and (6) develop improvement strategies. (A selected bibliography lists 51 items.) (YLB)