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How to Promote K–12 Data Literacy

Data is a vital component to district decision-making and educator improvement. Use these tips to promote more effective K–12 data literacy.

Fewer than 60% of educators agreed that their superintendents modeled data usage in 2023. This metric highlights a prime obstacle in K–12 improvement. Data can tell a vital story about your district’s challenges and how to solve them. District leaders need data to identify disparities across their districts. Teachers need data to inform instruction and assess student learning. But data alone isn’t enough; educators must know how to use it effectively.

Fostering a district culture of K–12 data literacy involves some planning and forethought, which some leaders may, understandably, find challenging at first. However, the best practices outlined below can help any district collect and evaluate data more systematically and accurately.

Laying the Framework for Successful K–12 Data Utilization

The beginning stages of improving district data literacy involve rallying staff resources, setting your trajectory, and identifying what types of data will be most helpful to your schools. Without a robust starting plan, educators may find it hard to gain the momentum needed to incorporate data utilization into their long-term practices. Consider the following takeaways to help jump start your data analysis initiatives:

  • Form a designated data work group
    • This team should include a diverse group of educators and staff along with an experienced data user and a data manager.
  • Develop research questions
    • Identify the questions you need to answer, such as “How do families perceive our student support efforts?” and then set research goals and the metrics you’ll use to measure your progress.
  • Identify and gather data
    • Consider what data you will need regarding enrollment, outcomes, processes, resources, demographics, and perceptions.
    • Conduct an inventory by considering what data is already available and what might be missing.
Learn more about the key role of data in K–12 improvement with our blog, Using Data to Solve K–12 Challenges.

Promoting Continuous Improvement in K–12 Data Analysis

Following through with data utilization involves setting a goal of continual improvement by making space to review data and refine questions, allocating resources for proper analysis, and implementing plans for the future. With a clear-cut data analysis life cycle, staff will gain a better understanding of the stages of establishing data literacy. Use the following tips and practices to help guide your data work through its entire process:

  • Promote collaboration and discussion of research questions and current data inventory
    • Allow your data team to share observations, refine questions, and close gaps in data to help ensure your schools obtain the right metrics, providing valuable answers to overarching research questions.
  • Review raw data sets to detect patterns, inconsistencies, and changes over time
  • Evaluate prime data takeaways and plan for the future
    • Use the results of your data analysis to develop an action plan to set a path for improvement.
    • Set SMART goals based on the information your team has obtained and regularly monitor and evaluate progress.
Starting a new initiative in your district may seem daunting but careful planning helps make goals a reality. Learn more with our resource, Transforming Strategic Plans into Results: A K-12 Action Planning Toolkit.

Effectively Communicating K–12 Data

While knowing how to source and use data are vital components in K–12, districts must also effectively share findings and patterns with their community members. Failing to relay important takeaways to students, employees, families, and school board members diminishes the value of hard-earned data. Data transparency yields stronger working relationships between different parties in a district by establishing trust and accountability for student outcomes.

Your district can help ensure that no key findings go to waste by regularly sharing student outcomes data through newsletters, websites, social media, dashboards, and presentations at meetings and town halls. By keeping these findings accessible, leaders can help facilitate districtwide data literacy and promote a deeper understanding of patterns, persistent challenges, and opportunity gaps. Moreover, explaining the data behind a certain decision can be a powerful way to promote buy-in across community groups and help others accept outcomes or decisions they may not have initially agreed with. Follow these best practices when aiming to share key data findings with your school communities:

  • Develop a strategic data communications plan that integrates how and when key data will be shared with different constituents
    • Create guidelines to help staff differentiate communications based on recipient groups.
    • District leaders and their data task groups should consider which data points are most relevant to families compared to school board members and other audiences.
  • Ensure that data presentations are accessible for multiple groups
    • Help audiences understand context and history through introductions and other explanatory resources.
    • Use plain language, avoiding technical terms and industry jargon
    • Offer findings in multiple languages
Community feedback is an invaluable aspect of district improvement. Learn more with our blog, Top Benefits of Family and Community Engagement.

As a leader, promoting K–12 data literacy in your district may be the most important thing you can do to promote long-term success. Without the effective use of data, it can be difficult to fully understand and address prime challenges and subsequently plan for the future. However, even the most effective leaders cannot foster optimal district data literacy overnight. To promote effective data utilization, leaders should create a robust framework that promotes staff collaboration, ensure data work groups have the resources to address critical research questions, and build a plan to effectively share key data and insights with all community members.

 Data utilization is a districtwide effort. Learn more about promoting data analysis across your district and schools with our newly updated Data Literacy Checklist.


Promote long-term success for your schools by fostering district-wide K-12 data literacy.

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