School Solutions                                             Page 44


Leading With Analytics  




Information is among leadership’s most effective tools. When used strategically, accurate, relevant information can be a catalyst for productive and lasting change.

Effective leaders rely on such information to promote an evidence-based culture and to support decision making. Yet in an era where school systems are digesting more data, they continue to starve for information. Many school system leaders describe their organizations as data rich and information poor.

Analytics provide a superior approach to generating information and knowledge about an organization, its performance and even its future. This disciplined, scientific approach gathers information systemwide.

By connecting and aligning an organization’s data, methods of inquiry and reporting, analytics focus an organization’s energy around the strategic goals and objectives of the system.

For school systems, systemic information that connects boards of education, administrators and teachers will align classroom instruction, school improvement and district priorities. The result can have a profound impact on student outcomes.

Confronting Challenges
Just as the food we eat shapes our bodies, the data and information we focus on shape our thinking. Effective use of analytics requires schools to fly above the data so that patterns and relationships emerge and productive dialogue over the influences of larger systems can take place.

The key to leveraging analytics is asking the right questions. Instead of asking, “What are our areas of weakness in grade 5 reading?” ask, “What do the relationships among our achievement, program, financial and stakeholder data tell us about the effectiveness of our structures to deliver and sustain high reading performance?”

Feedback from several local districts is that analytics have helped to validate strategic efforts and resulted in robust dialogue among leadership teams and faculty, forcing them to confront their most pressing challenges.

Broad Commitment
Implementing analytics requires a commitment at all levels of the school system, but most importantly from the CEO or superintendent. Only the superintendent can align the board of education, the administrative staff and the teachers in the classroom. Only the superintendent can instill a culture of evidence-based practice.

Superintendents must align the district’s data and information infrastructure to the district’s strategic plan and focus the dissemination of information appropriately so that:

Boards receive macro information to support governance and document return on investment;

Administrators receive information on school improvement goals, program effectiveness and personnel;

Teachers receive information on how well their students are growing;

Students and parents receive information on the progress they are making toward goals.

Connecting and aligning information under a common analytic framework promotes performance excellence and supports accountability.

ECRA Group, a member of AASA School Solutions Center, has partnered with more than 1,000 school districts nationally. ECRA helps school systems adopt more systemic approaches to school improvement by focusing on leadership development, strategic planning, analytics and information infrastructure.

John Gatta is president of ECRA Group based in Rosemont, Ill. E-mail: johngatta@ecragroup.com. Twitter: @ECRAGROUP 


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