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Data Use
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Educators and policymakers have access to data from many sources. A key challenge is how to best use the available data to inform decisionmaking. RELs work in partnership with states and districts to 1) conduct original high quality research, 2) provide training, coaching, and technical support, and 3) disseminate high quality research findings to improve data use. A selected list of resources developed by the REL Program appears below.


  • Exploring District-Level Expenditure-to-Performance Ratios (REL Northeast and Islands, March 2017) Using state education department data from an example state in the Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast & Islands Region, researchers created six different expenditure-to-performance ratios and investigated how districts' inclusion in the highest quartile on districts rankings varied according to the expenditure and performance measures used to calculate each ratio.
  • Benchmarking Education Management Information Systems Across the Federated States of Micronesia. (REL Pacific, November 2016). This report series includes four state-level studies in the Federated States of Micronesia states of Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, and Yap. The purpose of these studies was to examine the quality of the education management information systems in the Federated States of Micronesia.
  • Guide to Using the Teacher Data Use Survey. (REL Appalachia, October 2016). The Teacher Data Use Survey and accompanying guide provide district and school leaders with a survey instrument that will enable educators to learn more about teachers' use of data, teachers' attitudes toward data, and teachers' perception of supports for using data.
  • How are teacher evaluation data used in five Arizona districts? (REL West, May 2016). Recent teacher evaluation reforms instituted across the country have sought to yield richer information about educators' strengths and limitations and guide decisions about targeted opportunities for professional growth. This study describes how results from new multiple-measure teacher evaluations were being used in 2014/15 in five school districts in Arizona
  • Instructional improvement cycle: A teacher's toolkit for collecting and analyzing data on instructional strategies (REL Central, May 2015). This toolkit, developed by REL Central in collaboration with York Public Schools in Nebraska, provides a process and tools to help teachers use data from their classroom assessments to evaluate promising practices. The toolkit provides teachers with guidance on how to deliberately apply and study one classroom strategy over the course of one unit and systematically document and compare results to consider the effects of a given instructional strategy on student learning.
  • Toolkit for a Workshop on Building a Culture of Data Use (REL Northeast and Islands, April 2015). The Culture of Data Use Workshop Toolkit helps school and district teams apply research to practice as they establish and support a culture of data use in their educational setting. The field-tested workshop toolkit guides teams through a set of structured activities to develop an understanding of data-use research in schools and to analyze examples from practice.
  • Practitioner Data Use in Schools: Workshop Toolkit (REL Northeast and Islands, December 2014). The Practitioner Data Use Workshop Toolkit is designed to help practitioners systematically and accurately use data to inform their teaching practice. The toolkit includes an agenda, slide deck, participant workbook, and facilitator's guide and covers the following topics: developing data literacy, engaging in a cycle of inquiry, accessing and analyzing available data, identifying and creating student goals, and using data to make action plans about instructional decisions.

Works in Progress

  • Examining the Association between Schoolwide Instructional Measures and School-level Student Outcomes in Massachusetts' Low-Performing Schools Since 2010, the Massachusetts Department of Early and Secondary Education (ESE) has made a significant investment to develop a coherent, aligned system for supporting and monitoring its low-performing schools. The monitoring process includes collecting schoolwide observation data of classroom instructional practices, which ESE then uses to provide formative feedback to schools on their turnaround practices. This study with ESE is conducting analyses of this schoolwide instructional observation data, collected using Teachstone's Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) tool. Researchers are examining whether the schoolwide CLASS observation data are associated with improved schoolwide student achievement and growth.


  • Ethan Cancell, Brockton, MA, Public Schools (REL Northeast and Islands) Urban School Improvement Alliance at REL Northeast & Islands Core Planning Group member Ethan Cancell, Executive Director, Accessibility & Accountability, Brockton, MA, Public Schools.
  • Implementing a Data Literate Culture in a Rural Setting (REL Southwest). REL Southwest provided technical assistance through the Oklahoma Rural Schools Research Alliance to Homer Elementary School, Byng Public Schools, Oklahoma, as part of the Educators and Data Use project. The focus of the technical assistance was the effective use of data to inform classroom instruction. The ongoing, collaborative professional learning consisted of two in-person training sessions followed by monthly virtual meetings with the teachers and principals. Through the vision and leadership of the principals, all Homer Elementary School teachers became dedicated to ongoing, collaborative professional learning with a focus on using data to improve student learning.
  • Pacific Education Leaders on the Optimizing Education Data Systems Video. (REL Pacific). This video provides testimonials from Pacific region education and civic leaders about the REL Pacific Optimizing Education Data Systems video. Interviewees include Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Commissioner of Education Dr. Rita Sablan, Palau Minister of Education Sinton Soalablai, and Micronesia Coordinator of the Migrant Resource Center Emeliana Musrasrik.
  • PDE Data Summit: Using data to identify at-risk students. (REL Mid-Atlantic). During the 2015 Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Data Summit, panelist Joetta L. Britvich, Principal, South Middle School, Albert Gallatin Area School District, describes how South Middle School uses data to identify at-risk students.
  • Reading School District's use of data to go from fiscally distressed to sound footing (REL Mid-Atlantic). During the 2015 Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Data Summit, panelist Dr. John J. George, Executive Director, Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, describes the transition of the Reading School District and how it used data to improve its finances.
  • Study Findings: Data Collection and Use in Early Childhood Programs, Evidence from the Northeast (REL Northeast and Islands). Early childhood education programs face increasing pressures to collect data, about both teachers and children, and to use those data to make decisions. Research supports the potential value of using data in education settings for multiple purposes, but little is known about whether or how early childhood education programs use data for these purposes.
  • Teacher Effectiveness Data Use (REL West). This video-based workshop from the REL West and the Center for Great Teachers and Leaders builds the capacity of district and school leaders to better understand, analyze, and apply teacher effectiveness data to make strategic decisions regarding teacher assignment, leadership, and professional development, and also helps facilitate local planning around the use of these data.

Archived Webinars

  • Data-Driven Implementation of Tiered Interventions with English Learners, Session 1 (REL Northeast and Islands, February 1, 2018) This webinar is the first in a three-part training series for Connecticut educators on how to effectively implement response to intervention (RTI), or scientific research-based interventions (SRBI), with English learner students. Dr. Sarah Moore and Lindsey Massoud from the Center for Applied Linguistics provide background on RTI and English learners and offer strategies for and examples of implementing Tier 1 supports.
  • Building a System of Great Schools: The What, So What, and Now What? (REL Southwest, October 24, 2017). This REL Southwest webinar, recorded October 24, 2017, presents actionable guidance on how to build a system of great schools through school portfolio management. The webinar recording provides an overview of the research surrounding school portfolio management, followed by an engaging discussion around defining school quality, mapping school quality to potential school interventions, and orchestrating an annual decisionmaking cycle to ensure that school interventions maximize impact for students. Cleveland Metropolitan School District serves as an example of how one district is currently implementing these elements to drive school improvement, and the presentation offers an overview of the Texas System of Great Schools Network, as well.
  • Leveraging Postsecondary Data to Increase College Access (REL Northeast and Islands, September 20, 2017) This webinar explores recent research on the ways states and districts are using administrative postsecondary data, including to track graduates' postsecondary enrollment, persistence, and success. Included in the presentation are remarks from Dr. Benjamin Castleman, who discusses a low-cost, short-cycle randomized controlled trial that used postsecondary data to assess the effectiveness of an inexpensive, text message-based college-access program that aims to reduce "summer melt."
  • Skill-Builder Webinar: How to Facilitate the Practitioner Data Use Workshop with REL Resources (REL Northeast and Islands, September 15, 2015). This Skill-Builder webinar focuses on the facilitation, organization, and resources necessary to conduct the workshop in person. Facilitators and coaches learn strategies for selecting data, conducting workshop protocols, and leading discussion.
  • The Kentucky Longitudinal Data System (KLDS): Connecting Education and Outcomes (REL Appalachia, August 31, 2016). REL Appalachia partnered with the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics (KCEWS) to host this webinar on the capabilities, products, and services available to Kentucky school districts and practitioners through KCEWS and the Kentucky Longitudinal Data System (KLDS).
  • Developing a Culture of Data Use to Maximize the Use of an Early Warning System (REL Northeast and Islands, August 9, 2016) Nancy Gerzon provides an introduction to five elements essential to creating and sustaining a culture of data use, with a focus on early warning systems and the Culture of Data Use Framework.
  • Massachusetts, Minnesota, and the State Role in Supporting Early Warning System Implementation (REL Northeast and Islands, May 18, 2016) Susan Therriault, REL Northeast & Islands, provides an overview of the state role in EWS implementation, along with Kate Sandel, Massachusetts Department of Education, and John Gimpl, Minnesota Department of Education. They discuss their processes for organizing, implementing, monitoring, and adjusting their EWSs and the supports (team members, training, guidance, resources) available in their states to support EWS work and confront challenges to implementation
  • How to Facilitate the Logic Models Workshop for Program Design and Evaluation (REL Northeast and Islands, December 9, 2015) This webinar is a guide for educational leaders who want to introduce logic models for program design, implementation, and evaluation using a workshop toolkit available from REL Northeast & Islands. During the webinar, the authors of the toolkit focus on the facilitation, organization, and resources necessary to conduct the workshop virtually or in person.
  • Coherent and Comprehensive Assessment Systems (REL Northeast and Islands, October 15, 2015) Margaret Heritage explores how a coherent system with a range of assessment types can provide different users at different levels with the right kinds of data at the right level of detail to help with decision making in support of student achievement.
  • Skill-Builder Webinar: Building a Culture of Data Use in Rural Districts (REL Northeast and Islands, May 19, 2015). This Skill-Builder Workshop Webinar, hosted by the Northeast Rural Districts Research Alliance, presented the key characteristics of a data-using culture in schools and districts. The workshop explored a "Culture of Data Use Framework" through an analysis of best practices, barriers to implementation, and policy and guidance questions.
  • Implementing a Data Literate Culture at the School and Teacher Levels II – Introduction (REL Southwest, April 2, 2015). This bridge event webinar, Implementing a Data Literate Culture at the School and Teacher Levels II, was hosted by the REL Southwest. The webinar is in four parts.
  • Intermediate Database Concepts Workshop Presented by REL Mid-Atlantic at the PDE Data Summit (REL Mid-Atlantic, March 25, 2015). Building off the Basic Database Concepts Workshop presented by Dr. Nancy Smith, Kasia Razynska, and Dr. Teresa Duncan, this presentation demonstrates how the use of standard data management processes can improve data quality and better inform school and district decisionmaking.
  • Data Dashboards Using Excel and MS presented by REL Mid-Atlantic at the PDE Data Summit (REL Mid-Atlantic, March 2015). The goal of this workshop presented by Dr. Rosemarie O'Conner and Gabriel Hartmann is to expand attendees' knowledge and expertise in designing dashboards. The dashboards can be used to communicate with students and parents regularly and efficiently.
  • Implementing a Data Literate Culture at the School and Teacher Levels I (REL Southwest, October 29, 2014). This webinar, the first in a series of two, examines how to use data effectively at the school, classroom, and student levels—with a focus on the rural school setting. The webinar is in three parts.
  • Data Informed Action for Dropout Prevention (REL Northeast and Islands, October 10, 2014). In collaboration with the Puerto Rico Department of Education, the Puerto Rico Research Alliance for Dropout Prevention at REL Northeast & Islands hosted this webinar on the use of data in support of dropout prevention.
  • Foundations of Data Use for School Boards (REL Northeast and Islands, December 12, 2014). This Skill-Builder Workshop hosted by the Urban School Improvement Alliance at REL Northeast & Islands provided school-board and school-committee members with the opportunity to consider both effective data-use practices for decision making and the importance of supporting a strong data-use culture within their respective districts.
  • Using Data to Inform Instruction: Building the Capacity of Educators (REL Northeast and Islands, November 24, 2014). In collaboration with the US Virgin Islands Department of Education, the US Virgin Islands College and Career Readiness Research Alliance at REL Northeast & Islands hosted this webinar drawing on the IES Practice Guide "Using Student Achievement Data to Support Instructional Decision-Making."
  • Engaging Families in the Assessment Process and Use of Data: An Early Childhood Example (August 12, 2014). This webinar examines the strategies the Research Program Partnership at the University of Kansas employs to foster the use of early childhood data at multiple levels, particularly with families. The webinar is in three parts:
  • The "Long Now": Local Data in an Era of State Longitudinal Data Systems (REL Northeast and Islands, April 30, 2014).Dr. Neal Gibson, Director of the Arkansas Research Center, and members of the Urban School Improvement Alliance at REL Northeast & Islands in this webinar examined both the potential and the traps of longitudinal data systems; meeting FERPA requirements; and creating secure, private, and agile databases that require a minimum of capital investment and humanpower to maintain.
  • Implementing a Computer Data System: The Human Side (Apr. 1, 2014). Jeffrey C. Wayman, Ph.D., an award-winning researcher and education consultant, draws from a decade of research to discuss the often-ignored human side of data system implementation—supporting educators in accessing and applying the data they need to solve real-world problems. The webinar is in two parts:
  • Our State Has an SLDS—Now What? (REL Southeast and REL Southwest, February 25, 2014). This 4-part bridge event webinar was co-presented by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast and the Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest on February 25, 2014.
  • The Data-Informed District (REL Southwest, December 5, 2013). Drawing upon his 3-year study with three Texas school districts, Dr. Wayman discusses five components of the Data-Informed District as well as the research base behind the components and the barriers and facilitators for implementing them.
  • Bridge Event – Data Collection and Use: An Early Childhood Perspective (REL Northeast and Islands, August 13, 2013). At this webinar, hosted by the Early Childhood Education Research Alliance, a presentation of the research is accompanied by perspectives from an early childhood education specialist at the Rhode Island Department of Education and a Rhode Island preschool program director.
  • Organizational Learning and Data Use in Schools and Districts: Strategies for Improvement (REL Northeast and Islands, July 24, 2013). Effective learning organizations need strong connections and trust among teachers, principals, and other school leaders, but Kara Finnigan has found in her own research on district-level social network analysis that connectedness often is rare in low-performing districts, and that high turnover contributes to this problem.
  • The Data-Informed District: Research on Using Data to Inform Practice (REL Northeast and Islands, September 20, 2012) The Urban School Improvement Alliance invited Dr. Jeffery Wayman, assistant professor of educational administration at The University of Texas at Austin, to present his research on school and district data use as part of its mission to help urban districts in the Northeast and Islands Region better access and use data to improve their low-performing schools.


For more resources in ERIC on the topic of Data Use, click here.