Partnership supports schools in developing systems and routines for using data to improve classroom instruction


Schools are awash with student performance and learning data. These data are used in several ways– from ranking schools and evaluating teachers in some locations, to more formative purposes such as monitoring student learning and informing instructional improvement. In order to be successful at using data to improve instruction, Kathryn Boudett, director of the Data Wise project at Harvard states that “Using data effectively does not mean getting good at crunching numbers. It means getting good at working together to gain insights from student-assessment results and to use the insights to improve instruction.” In other words, teachers and leaders engaging in collaborative inquiry with respect to data is the defining characteristic of successful data-informed instructional initiatives.

With this in mind, UVEI and the White River Valley Supervisory Union (WRVSU) in Vermont have engaged in a partnership this year to support all WRVSU schools in developing systems and routines for using data to improve classroom instruction. Superintendent Jamie Kinnarney and Chief Academic Officer Anda Adams have stressed the importance of teachers building collective efficacy to identify and address student learning needs that arise from a collaborative analysis of data. In structuring the partnership, we paired this vision with a practical set of tools and routines in the form of the Data Wise process, which guides teachers through a structured process of deeply analyzing different sources of student learning data, identifying a school-wide problem of practice, and taking action to address the problem.

Academic Dean and lead faculty in the partnership, Chris Ward, notes three key aspects of the partnership that have contributed to its success. First is each school’s commitment to distributed leadership. To this point, each principal in WRVSU identified a few teachers to be the school leaders of this data inquiry, and they have risen to the challenge, in both facilitating the process with their colleagues and developing a shared vision with their principal about the inquiry at their school. Second, each school has made a commitment to collective efficacy and action. This has fostered conversations about themes that show up in data across grade levels and sharing of ideas to improve instruction. Third, each school has made the process their own, which is the only way to make it last.

According to Kinnarney, “Our partnership with UVEI has been well received across WRVSU. The focus is to increase teacher agency through continuous professional development that invests in our teachers and not just programs. Therefore, this is just one step towards an educational organization that uses data to inform universal instruction, curriculum refinement, and monitor progress of all students’ academic and social/emotional growth.”

Chris adds, “The partnership has shown the impact of introducing a clear inquiry process into a strong network of distributed leadership.”