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The Data-Informed District

            Most of the research base on educational data use has isolated specific aspects of the district, such as teachers, principals, central office, and support roles.  Additionally, scholars are studying ways that these and other areas of a district interconnect to facilitate data use throughout the district.  School districts have many different moving parts, each one affecting many others.  These various components are like a pile of pick-up sticks in that when one moves, many others move also. 
            My main interest is to help teachers use data such that it is part of their everyday work and supports their most valuable asset: their judgment.  However, I recognize that this cannot occur unless the district provides them efficient, effective, and integrated supports.  Accordingly, my research is currently focused on ways to make districts coherent, data-using organizations.  I study this through a framework I call “The Data-Informed District.”
            In the Data-Informed District, the definition of “data” is broad and encompassing, including any information that helps an educator know more about their students (e.g., tests, quizzes, formal assessments, student background data). The uses of data in the Data-Informed District are characterized by integration and collaboration. Educators in the Data-Informed District are adept at tailoring and adapting their practices appropriately because they benefit from district-sponsored support in this area to capitalize on their most important resource: their professional judgment. Perhaps most important, educators in the Data-Informed District use data in the course of their regular work, not in addition to their regular work.
            My research is currently supported by a three-year grant from The Spencer Foundation.  My research team is working with three districts in Central Texas to study how they may use data more effectively district-wide.  In Fall 2009, we conducted thorough evaluations of each district’s data use and presented findings and recommendations in Spring 2010.  Since then, we have worked with our districts on implementing these recommendations, studying what they choose to implement, how they choose to implement it, and how it can be improved.  In 2012, we hope to provide a freely-available, preliminary framework for The Data-Informed District.
            I invite you to browse our research at the Publications link on the left.  Besides our current project, it contains links to our original work on The Data-Informed District with Natrona County (WY) schools, research we recently conducted evaluating the Acuity data system in Mesa (AZ) Public Schools, and much more.
            Please email me if you have question or comments.  Thank you for your interest in improving education.

Jeff Wayman