Using Data to Make Decisions

Find the right pathway through the fog.

Allen Smith on the Issues - Using Data to Make Decisions

Focus on doing impactful work

With recent advances in technology, collecting rich data that measures just about any aspect of our work is painless and economical. We should be using this data to guide our decisions and help us focus on the work that is most impactful. By starting with clear goals and tangible impacts that move us toward those goals, we can measure work to determine which projects, processes, and initiatives are most effective and which tasks are extraneous.

Use the best tools for the job

To make the most of data, we need to maximize its reach and make sure everyone can digest it. I believe we should help empower students, teachers, and administrators by providing access to data and letting them explore it with the tools that work best for them. We should rely on open-standard data formats like JSON and XML and embrace free, open-source technology instead of committing to expensive, long-term contracts with vendors who promote proprietary solutions.

Measure progress, not activity

Too often, we collect heaps of data without aim and end up overloaded with information that tells us nothing — in many cases because we don’t have time or resources to turn it into action. Sometimes a particular metric sounds valuable, but the cost of measuring it outweighs the benefit of any subsequent action. I believe we should focus on collecting data that measures progress and only monitor raw activity, such as tracking student and employee time, when its necessity is clear and its scope is narrow.

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