Setting the Stage
The beginning of the 2011-12 school year was a time of transition within the Research and Accountability (R and A) Department for Durham Public Schools (DPS) in Durham, NC. R and A entered the 2011-12 school year with a new department leader, two vacant data analyst positions, and a vacant state testing coordinator position. The inter-departmental change established a climate ripe for promoting and supporting a Data-to-Action, results-driven culture within R and A. Through the hiring of new, data-driven leaders to fill vacancies within the department, along with the leadership of a data-driven, results-oriented leader, R and A was re-organized and re-focused to devote its resources to serving the educational leaders and teachers of DPS.
R and A's pursuit of a higher-quality Data-to-Action, results-oriented culture was supported by the results-driven practices of DPS Superintendent Dr. Eric J. Becoats. One of the first actions taken by Dr. Becoats upon his arrival in DPS was to lead the school system and members of the DPS community in the development and implementation of the DPS Strategic Plan, One Vision. One Durham. Within this plan, goals and strategies were adopted that promote the Data-to-Action, results-oriented culture that R and A has so diligently sought to establish.
An immediate strategy supported by the newly appointed Assistant Superintendent of R and A was to assess the baseline performance of R and A through the completion of an external department audit. The findings from the external audit in October 2011 and the system-wide Central Services Customer Satisfaction Survey in March 2012, provided baseline information on the quality of services provided by R and A, according to the perceptions of a diverse sample of DPS employees, which included central office and school administrators, as well as teachers. R and A also used findings from these two assessments to design a continuous improvement service plan for R and A for the remainder of the 2011-12 school year and beyond.
Higher Quality Service: Modeling a Data-to-Action Culture
A key organizational decision made within R and A early in the fall 2011 involved setting higher standards for deliverables and service to constituents. An emphasis on high-quality, impeccable deliverables and service was identified as a possible area for improvement by the external audit and by school administrators via their completion of the R and A, department-specific questions within the Central Services Customer Satisfaction Survey. Processes of accountability and documentation were established within R and A to track the quantity of data requests submitted to R and A, the purposes of these requests, and the audiences who made these data requests. Accountability processes such as the triangulation of vetting data for accuracy, the creation of data communication plans and the creation of data set cover memos resulted in the production of more impeccable deliverables and service. By improving the quality of its deliverables and service, R and A was successfully modeling the Data-to-Action, results-oriented culture team members wanted to promote to system and school-level administrators and teachers. In its successful promotion of a of this culture, R and A was developing evidences that aligned with AdvancED Standard 5, Using Results for Continuous Improvement, within the system’s schools and the school system. With the foundation for a higher-quality and impeccable Data-to-Action, results-oriented culture established, R and A team members focused for the remainder of the 2011-12 school year on identifying potential areas for improved data analysis service.
Taking Data Analysis to a New Level: Data Projects and Deliverables During the 2011-12 School Year
Several R and A endeavors during the 2011-12 school year illustrated the Data-to-Action, results-oriented culture. The 2011 Academic Update, an analysis, comparison and presentation of system and school-level student academic achievement data from 2009-10 to the 2010-11 school year completed in October 2011 represented a transformation point in the culture shift within R and A. During the completion of this analysis, processes and procedures were established that set high expectations for future deliverables and service provided by R and A. Comprehensive reports and presentations on: the Early Warning Tracking System Data Protocol, teacher working conditions, professional learning communities, student academic growth and proficiency on End-of-Grade and End-of-Course tests and additional educational programs and initiatives currently implemented within DPS were later completed using the same standards and expectations. Likewise, the feedback obtained by R and A from system leaders in the completion of the 2011 Academic Report reinforced the importance of using results to drive the continuous improvement process. R and A converted the immediate credibility and recognition it received from the 2011 Academic Update into momentum that would drive the Data-to-Action, results-oriented culture beyond the realms of the department to other educational arenas within DPS.
The second data analysis venture that allowed R and A to model its Data-to-Action, results-oriented culture was through the creation of the Early Warning Tracking System Data Protocol. Beginning in late fall 2011, Ms. Karin Beckett, Data Analyst and Program Evaluator and designer of the Early Warning Tracking System Data Protocol for DPS, created data files for elementary schools that measured the presence of at-risk indicators (variables) for all students. The purpose of the Early Warning Tracking System Data Protocol and how its data can be used to better meet the educational and socio-emotional needs of elementary school students was presented to Elementary Area Superintendents, principals, assistant principals and school instructional facilitators. At the request of Area Superintendents and other members of the DPS Executive Leadership Team, the Early Warning Tracking System Data Protocol was modified and expanded to assess at-risk indicators for middle and high school students during the spring 2012.
…the Early Warning Tracking System Data Protocol was modified and expanded to assess at-risk indicators for middle and high school students
A fourth step taken within R and A during the 2011-12 school year to promote the importance of establishing a Data-to-Action, results-oriented culture within DPS was the increased emphasis on creating and administering surveys in an effort to assess various programs and initiatives currently active within DPS. Processes for administering high-quality surveys, which included establishing an annual survey calendar, creating accurate sample lists for administered surveys and concluding each survey with a comprehensive analysis of the survey data, were established.
A final endeavor that has allowed R and A to promote its support of the Data-to-Action, results-oriented culture throughout the school system has been the development of various professional development training sessions that have empowered DPS administrators and teachers to implement Data-to-Action strategies within their departments and schools. Since the late fall, 2011 professional development training modules have been developed for the Early Warning Tracking System Data Protocol and the use of the K12 Insight Survey software platform, which will allow constituents to gather data on various programs and initiatives at the system and school-levels.
The Data-to-Action Vision for R and A; 2012-13 and Beyond
The initial goal R and A intends to pursue in its promotion and support for a Data-to-Action, results-oriented culture throughout DPS during the 2012-13 school year is the re-design of the R and A web page on the DPS website. Throughout the summer 2012, DPS employees external to the R and A department have collaborated with members of R and A on the desired information they wish to see incorporated on the re-designed R and A website. The new website will improve communication between R and A and its school system and external constituents. A second point of emphasis for R and A throughout the 2012-13 school year is to continue to establish written processes and procedures for customer service. Working towards this goal should result in R and A delivering higher-quality, customer service for which Superintendent Becoats is a strong proponent. A third major point of emphasis for R and A throughout the 2012-13 school year is to continue to design and deliver professional development sessions that will empower DPS constituents with the data analysis skills they need to continue the promotion and support of a Data to-Action, results-oriented culture in their schools and departments. A final point of emphasis for the R and A department for the 2012-13 school year is to continue to provide the behind-the-scenes, data analysis services needed by DPS’s model for data-driven leadership, Superintendent Eric J. Becoats. As Dr. Becoats and his Executive Leadership Team recognize the need for the assessment of current educational programs and initiatives within DPS, R and A will strive to model the Data-to-Action, results-oriented culture that drives our data analysis work, and which we emphatically support and promote to all administrators and educators within DPS.
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