State Action is Critical to Support Teacher Data Use

A high-quality teacher is one of the best guarantees of a high-quality education for students. While good teaching can look many different ways, the ability to use data to inform instruction, identify student needs, and drive decisionmaking is essential. When teachers enter the classroom equipped with the data literacy skills needed to access, understand and use data and are immersed in a culture where their data use is supported and encouraged, learning can flourish.

But to make this vision a reality in every school and classroom, teachers can’t do it alone. States have a critical role to play in creating the culture and conditions to support teachers’ ability to access and use data in their day-to-day practice.

In 2018, we asked teachers across the country how they felt about data. What’s clear is while teachers value, trust, and use data, they continue to face barriers to being able to use it effectively. Most commonly, they identify these barriers as lack of time, insufficient training, and a need for greater access to timely and actionable resources.

Fortunately, all of these barriers are fixable. But changes will not work without a shift in how state leaders view their role in supporting data efforts. When states shift their mindset from one of compliance to one centered on culture and capacity building, teachers are empowered to leverage the power of data in their day-to-day practice and drive success for students.

We know this is true because it has worked, and it’s what we heard when we spoke with teachers from Tennessee. As a result of the state’s commitment to enabling conditions for lifelong teacher data literacy, Tennessee teachers expressed clearly how valuable data is to their practice, the usefulness of state generated data resources, and shared sentiments that reflected their investment in a broader vision for using data to reach state goals.

Here are a few steps that states can take to ensure they are creating a culture that supports teacher data literacy:

  1. Articulate a clear vision and value around why data use matters for teaching and learning, and equip local leaders to do the same. Teachers won’t feel supported and invested in the value of data if they don’t understand its purpose or value. When these are clearly communicated, it sends a powerful message about the state’s commitment to data literacy.
  2. Build educator capacity to use data throughout their professional career. Teacher data literacy is not a “one and done” exercise. States must ensure that teachers have access to quality data literacy training from pre-service all the way throughout their professional career — including working with educator preparation programs to embed data literacy in licensing and curricular standards and supporting districts’ capacity to provide meaningful and sustained professional development.
  3. Commit to continuous improvement to ensure the needs of educators and school leaders are being met. Work with educators and school leaders to ensure that data literacy training and resources reflect the realities and needs of those in the classroom. Listen to those closest to students to determine what’s working, what’s not, and how improvements can be made.

This is the final blog in a four-part series published in support of Teacher Data Literacy Week. See our first blog for more on the value of teacher data literacy to student success, our second blog to learn what teacher data literacy looks like in practice from a teacher himself, and our third blog to read how one parent was better equipped to support learning at home thanks to a data-literate teacher.


Originally published at Data Quality Campaign.