The below post is in unison with a graduate class textbook assignment (that explains the sections of formal writing as opposed to more engaging and less included narrative style of writing).
A Reflection of Leadership’s Implementation of Data-driven Decisions
Have you ever experienced structure without culture or accountability without fidelity? If so, then you have probably experienced a leadership problem. Incorporating data-driven decision making into a school is not a new form or committee, it is a movement, a way of doing things, and becomes the very essences to which everyone operates. In order for data to become the culture, leaders must avoid five pitfalls: lack of vision, structure before culture, resting on compliance not commitment, failure to distribute leadership, and lack of support or resources.
Leadership starts with a vision. One of the best leadership traits any leader can have is the ability to communicate, or as one leader once told me, “a leader with a strong message will involuntarily spew their message to anyone who will listen.” This becomes unequivocally true when it comes to implementing and sustaining data-driven decision to direct and adjust instruction and delivery. What leaders must do at the onset of this movement, and continuous thereafter, is communicate, communicate, and communicate the vision so that it leaves no room for error or question.
As Ken Williams profoundly stated in his book, Starting a Movement, “culture eats structure for lunch.” It is absolutely imperative that leaders engage staff members in culture creating modeling, conversation, and accountability measures in order to set and sustain a strong culture. Culture in this essence becomes “the way things are done.” Spring boarded by vision, culture becomes the leverage point between compliance and commitment.
The enemy of commitment is compliance. Sure, every beginning must start somewhere, however, leaders must be able to assess the pulse of the staff’s readiness to shift from accountability to using data to inform practices with fidelity. As Mandinach and Jackson (2012) clarified it, school district must continuously work to improve data literacy. I firmly believe that the biggest impediment for staff commitment to data-driven decisions is due lack of continuous and ongoing training and improvement.
In order to sink the roots of data-driven decision making deep within the staff’s culture, leaders must distribute leadership throughout the school. Effective principal’s should know their strengths while simultaneously assessing and leverage the strengths of others around them to interact and lead with data; or as Mandinach and Jackson (2012) simplistically explain it, shared leadership is shared responsibility.
Lastly, effective leadership must always ensure sufficient support and resources. One of the main culture building components in an organization is having strong structures and resources in place to facilitate an effective data-driven culture. Effective leaders should set aside protected time for collaboration, present to staff members effective ways to collect and analyze data, and always work to build the human capacity to interact with the data (Mandinach & Jackson, 2012).
Williams, K. C. (2015). Starting a movement. Bloomington, IN. Solution Tree.
Mandinach, E. B., Jackson, S. S. (2012). Transforming teaching and learning through data-driven decision making. Thousand Oak, CA. SAGE Publications.