Leadership For Data Use: A study of Three Award-Winning Elementary Schools
Enfield, Timothy Kevin
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Data use is a significant part of a school principal’s responsibility. The principal who leads the development and implementation of a data-driven plan for increasing student achievement has the potential to improve school performance; yet empirical evidence supporting the use of such a plan is scarce (Leithwood & Louis, 2011). This study was designed to further scholars’ understanding of how principals lead the implementation of data-driven plans to increase student achievement. Data were collected using the qualitative method. Interviews were completed during the 2015–2016 school year with three principals and nine teachers working in schools that received the Washington Achievement Award for reading growth. The researcher sought to identify types of data, patterns of data use, and conditions supporting data use in these schools. Five characteristics emerged: shared focus on student learning; time and opportunity to meet; the presence of a schoolwide data system; access to expertise; and shared, purpose-driven leadership. Examination of these characteristics through a leadership lens surfaced three synthetic themes. These were the importance of knowledge and expertise as it relates to data use and classroom instruction, the feelings and beliefs teachers bring to the data use process, and the ways in which collective efficacy is enhanced by successful data use. The implications for practice are threefold. First, a principal must focus simultaneously on the effective use of data and accompanying successful instructional response. Second, promoting a shared focus on student learning appears to create a sense of collective efficacy when those with the knowledge and skill needed to assess student learning and respond to findings instructionally support data use. Third, principals should access the expertise of teacher leaders, including instructional coaches, by giving them time to use their knowledge to support the administration of assessments and ongoing use of data from those assessments.