Are your teachers data literate?

Educators must be well-versed in the components of analyzing and using data to make informed decisions

Data literacy refers to understanding how to create and select high-quality assessments, how to integrate assessment practices and assessment results into action, and knowing how to communicate accurately about student learning.

The level of data literacy fluctuates from teacher to teacher, and with a clear vision and mission from the school and district leaders, teachers are better able to build upon the foundation of their previously established data literacy.

School leaders can address the challenges of data literacy by providing professional development opportunities to share the conceptual framework for data literacy, and expose teachers and staff to various forms of assessment and analysis of data.

Leaders must also ensure that educators are well versed in curriculum design and best instructional practices, as these are essential components of analyzing and using data to make informed decisions. Educational leaders must also establish trusting relationships with staff so that they feel comfortable asking questions and taking risks where data literacy is concerned.

Allowing teachers time for self- reflection and self -exploration regarding their data literacy profile is imperative in knowing how to support teachers in building their capacity.

There are various structures that can be implemented to increase educator’s capacities to use data to inform teaching and learning and ultimately improve student outcomes. The Data Wise Improvement Process, for example, is an eight-step model from the Harvard Graduate School of Education ( that guides teams of educators from schools or systems in working collaboratively to improve teaching and learning through evidence-based analysis.

Challenges for creating a data literate staff/culture include motivating staff to want to understand the need and benefits of data analysis and use.

One challenge of implementing a school or district wide model is time for professional development and time for teachers to practice and model the program (Boudett, City & Murnane, 2013). There are many moving parts in every school district system, so in order to implement a “program” for increasing teacher’s data literacy, the district must implement the process with complete fidelity.

Who benefits?

School leaders set the tone for all opportunities that exist within their school, and we know that school culture is established by the school leader. Good leaders lead by example, thus in order for school leaders to establish a culture which values and effectively uses data to inform instruction, they must model their own value of data analysis and use.

The stakeholders for data driven decision-making include all members of a school organization; these include teachers, staff, students and parents, depending upon the types of decisions being made. Data teams vary, and it is important to consider who the stakeholders are, or should be, in order to make the best and most informed decisions about a child’s progress and programs.

Challenges for creating a data literate staff/culture include motivating staff to want to understand the need and benefits of data analysis and use.

Educators often feel overwhelmed due to the constant and ongoing changes within our system. We need to invite them to reflect upon their needs and offer input as to what type of professional development structure would efficiently and effectively support their needs. Inviting stakeholders to derive a plan always increases buy-in, and allows staff to feel valued.

Lori Koerner has been in the field of education for three decades. She is currently the principal of Tremont Elementary School in the Patchogue-Medford School District on Long Island in New York.

Lori Koerner
Lori Koerner
Lori Koerner is the assistant superintendent for human resources and elementary education at Riverhead Central School District in New York.

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