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Title:Illinois elementary principals' influence in the establishment of data-informed decision making: a comparative case study
Author(s):Williams, Michael
Director of Research:Hackmann, Donald G.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Hackmann, Donald G.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Alexander, S. Kern; Hunter, Richard C.; Pak, Yoon K.
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Ed Organization and Leadership
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Data-informed leadership
Data literacy
Data-informed decision making
Distributed leadership
Systems learning
Abstract:This comparative-case study examined how principals of three suburban elementary schools near Chicago, Illinois influenced data-rich cultures to inform decisions within their schools. Specifically, this study examined the leadership behaviors and activities of the principals as they established data-informed decision-making procedures in their schools, built capacity to enrich a data-savvy culture, evaluated the effectiveness of their data-informed systems, and negotiated through obstacles as they worked to establish data-enriched cultures within their schools. The participants included 3 principals; each interviewed on 3 different occasions; 4 central office supervisors; and 16 teachers, including reading, math, and data specialists. Three meetings were observed and nine interviews were conducted between January and April 2012, along with three follow-up telephone interviews of the principals in late April 2012. The findings from this study demonstrated that a productive culture in the three schools focused attention and effort on improving student learning, guided the learning of individual professionals, and employed a systems-learning approach. Data-informed leaders created structures and systems that included participation of faculty in decision making around data. The three principals demonstrated analytical, mathematical, and/or research backgrounds that influenced their ability to foster a culture of data-informed decision making. The principals found the key to fostering a data-rich culture was to involve the faculty in data conversations. As the main users of data, the involvement of the teachers was crucial for success. The emphasis placed on data as the primary source of information assisted with the identification of best practices and ensured effective school reforms by identifying successes and gaps in student learning. In each school, the principals were effective in implementing a distributed leadership model, empowering the faculty to participate fully in problem solving, innovation, and collaboration. The culture of distributed leadership at each school relied not upon an individual but on the school unit, which is the most appropriate structure for leadership expertise. Distributed leadership practices within the schools recognized that the knowledge and skills necessary to exercise data-informed leadership was best situated within learning communities. Ultimately, a data-savvy culture was established in which teachers and administrators worked together in a community of practice: trusting data, focusing on results and not the person, and engaging in using data for systematic reflection and planning. The comparative case study also discovered that each school has multiple systems to use data to inform decisions. At the beginning of the year, each school conducted a data review, which the principals found was essential for facilitating student learning. Productive teams reviewed results of student achievement based on periodic common assessments and focused their reflective conversations on improving teaching and learning practices. Principals in this study established learning as the central focus and fulfill the social contract to the communities they serve. However, it was observed that the principals narrowly defined student learning within their schools as literacy and mathematics, because these were the only areas that were included in the Illinois state assessments. With the establishment of the Common Core State Standards, revised Illinois teacher evaluation requirements that include a significant emphasis on student growth, and state-mandated assessments, principals must be effective users of data. Fostering a culture of data-informed decision-making requires a sustained focus on collaboration, transparent review of data related to instructional practices, and the trusting environment to move student learning forward.
Issue Date:2013-02-03
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Michael Williams
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-02-03
Date Deposited:2012-12

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