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The Beliefs that School Administrators Hold about the Role of Data in Driving School Improvement
AuthorMedina, Ricky Lee
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Public policy and the popular press advocate for the use of data driven decision making by administrators in order to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and avoid No Child Left Behind sanctions. Requirements such as State Senate Bill 1 and the Student Achievement Gap Elimination (SAGE) school improvement process also emphasize data driven decision making. However, empirical evidence about data driven decision making is lacking, and not much is known about the current practices of school administrators or their beliefs towards using data to drive decisions. The focus of this study was to construct an understanding of the beliefs that school administrators held about the role of data in driving school improvement. Information was gathered through semi-structured interviews of school administrators in a medium-sized school district in a Western state to discover their beliefs in regard to school data and use of data to facilitate school improvement. During the course of this study, the inquiry was guided by the following question: What beliefs did school administrators hold about the role of data in driving school improvement?An analysis of interview transcripts revealed three interrelated and reinforcing themes: (a) I'm sure we're doing the "right" things; if only I could show people, they would value us; (b) Although I am not comfortable with data, collecting it is the "right" thing to do; and (c) I accept being held accountable, but the way that it is being implemented is unfair. The three themes each contain a qualifier. These qualifiers are indicative of the dissonance felt by school administrators. This dissonance is caused by the inconsistency between the beliefs held by school administrators that they are already doing the right things and their beliefs about the outcomes of the AYP process.