Over the past decade, data and better data systems and use have become a central reform strategy in education, social services and health. In a short period of time, many barriers to data access have been removed. The internet, software, and other technological advances have made getting, assembling, analyzing and disseminating data cheap and easy. In education, data use has transformed educators' work environment and districts' approaches to reform. In a relatively short period of time, access to data has shifted from the problem of not having enough data to the problem of having too much. On the one hand there are many compelling examples of where professionals have used data to transform practice, On the other hand, there are many more examples where professionals struggle to make sense of the deluge of information and “data” that they face daily: incomprehensible Performance Management decks, data dashboards, packaged test and survey reports all in three colors with beautiful graphs but little guidance, and school report cards filled with trends on 20 different indicators that don't seem to provide any insight beyond whether a school is red, yellow or green.
In this course, we will focus on three questions:
1. What makes data actionable? How do we create systems of data use that support ongoing improvement?
2. How do we build professionals' capacity to use data effectively to drive change and embed data use within innovative practices in change management and leadership?
3. How do we develop approaches to data use that are flexible and do not rely on a one size fits a? What problems can we and can't we solve with data use and how do we develop frameworks that create flexible approaches?
This course will draw on examples in education, medicine, social services and business about developing effective approaches to building the capacity of professionals to use data effectively to drive change. Just as importantly, the course will engage students in approaches to leadership, change management and the creation of practice communities using networks that both promote data use and create new approaches to reform. The course will draw most heavily from examples in education and the success in Chicago on using data to drive substantial improvements in increasing high school graduation rates and college enrollment particularly a model developed at SSA around high school reform, the Network for College Success. The class as a group will choose one project to work on that will bring together the pieces of the course.