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The Role of Data in Education

The Role of Data in Education

Data from multiple sources guide decisions about professional learning which can impact outcomes for students. Schools can improve learning for all students by gathering and using various categories of data more effectively. This article will take up the different types of data, how teachers can use data, and the importance of data in education.


Data are useful in defining individual, school, and system goals for professional learning. Data analysis is very helpful in understanding where students are in relation to the expected curriculum standards and identifying the focus for professional development for teachers.

Student Data

Student data include formal and informal assessments, daily classroom work, observations, classroom assessments, cumulative files, and standardized test scores. Other forms of data, such as demographics, attendance, engagement, student perceptions, behavior and discipline, and participation in extracurricular programs are useful in understanding student learning needs.

Educator Data

A thorough understanding of teacher learning needs is crucial in planning meaningful professional development. Educator data include performance on various assessments, classroom or work performance, educator perceptions, student results, and professional learning goals.

System Data

School administrators engage in data collection and analysis to establish changes in procedures, policy, human resources, financial resources, or technology required to support school and team-based learning. Administrators might analyze data about inputs (personnel, time, and fiscal allocation); outputs (frequency of participation, type of communication, and level of engagement); and outcomes (student achievement and changes in educator practice).


1. Share test results with individual students – Set attainable and realistic goals for each student to work on before the next test.

2. Use the data to determine student grouping and differentiation – Standardized test data shows how students performed – below basic, basic, proficient, or advanced. This could help teachers create seating charts, choose student groups, and differentiate for individual students. For example, if a student scores below basic and seems to be struggling in class, the teacher can seat him/her in a place that he/she can easily be given support.

3. Encouraging expanded views – Teachers need support to become assessment literate and adopt ways to collect, analyze, and reflect on data. Questions about standardized testing, leadership, and school goals may arise. School administrators can help teachers by discussing these tough questions. It will build leadership and teacher capacity in the process.


Data are useful in assessing and monitoring progress against established benchmarks. At the classroom level, teachers can use student data to determine the effectiveness of new teaching methods and strategies. When teachers design assessments and engage in collaborative analysis of student work, they gain valuable information about the effect of new teaching methods on students. Evidence of improvement in student learning is a powerful motivator for teachers and validates that the changes made are working.

At the school level, administrators use data to monitor implementation of professional development and its effects on teaching and student learning. Analyzing and interpreting data provides a holistic view of school improvement and fosters collective accountability and responsibility for student results.

Collection and use of data on inputs, outputs, and outcomes of professional learning support the cycle of continuous improvement by allowing for adjustments in the learning process to improve results for students, educators, and systems. Data collection, analysis, and use provide stakeholders with information which sustains momentum and continuous improvement.


Knowing what types of data to collect, analyze, and use has a profound impact on the effectiveness of the school as a learning institution. Data is not all about standardized test scores. In teaching, perceptions and relationships are just as important as curriculum and practice.




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