Above: A filterable KickUp heatmap that lets users see responses by district size, experience, or role.
Look for unexpected connections — or the opposite
Data is like a fractal: the closer you look at it, the more it can reveal.
Let’s take the combined classroom walkthrough scores from one school over the course of one year. As an average, this figure won’t tell you a lot. But digging a little deeper, you can ask:
- How does this number compare to last year’s average?
- What look-fors (behavior, time on task, environment) are weak across the school? Which are strong?
- Did the school’s teachers attend any PL sessions addressing these behaviors between this year and last? How did they rate those sessions?
- Is there a difference in teacher subgroups (grade level, subject, years of teacher experience) or are the numbers relatively even?
On the same note, don’t be afraid to contrast (not compare) two unrelated but striking statistics. “Correlation does not equal causation” is a common saying in the data world for a reason. Two changes occurring at the same time doesn’t mean that one has been caused by the other — but putting them side-by-side can yield unexpected insights.
For example, let’s say this is the first year you’ve evaluated a new ELA training program. “72% of high school teachers say the new ELA training is meeting their needs” doesn’t give the listener much to work with without last year’s context. Is 72% a “good” number or a bad one? But “72% of high school teachers say the training meets their needs. That’s a better approval rate than teachers gave the school lunch!” provides indirect context that helps solidify the team’s understanding.
Democratize your data by delegating responsibility
As team leader, you’re in charge of producing, analyzing, and delivering the final data set. But carefully delegating parts of the process can have unexpected benefits. Sharing responsibility for data collection gives your teacher-leaders and school-level administrators practice in the ins and outs of working directly with data — and makes sure they feel comfortable with and in control over the numbers when it’s time to break things down.
Case Study: Francis Howell School District
Finding meaning in professional learning data shouldn’t require a degree in statistics. Most often, analyzing data requires only basic math (and good organizing). That’s a philosophy KickUp partner Francis Howell School District (FHSD)—a Missouri school district home to more than 17,000 students—applies in their data collection plan.
FHSD launched a personalized learning strategy in the 2018-19 school year, with the eventual goal of enrolling each of their 1,200 teachers in one of 40+ individualized content strands. To avoid diving in without a plan, they began with a needs assessment that gauged teacher preference, best practice, historical performance and district goals.