Home > Blog > Four Questions to Ask About Your Data: An Example from a Data Coaching Project with Boston Public Schools
Dr. Kyle DeMeo Cook
Research Associate, REL Northeast & Islands
Dr. Karen Shakman
Research Scientist, REL Northeast & Islands
As part of our mission to advance the use of data in educational decision-making, REL Northeast & Islands provides customized training, coaching, and technical support to partners in the region seeking assistance with data use.
This past year, we collaborated with Boston Public Schools (BPS) to review and examine the data they collect as part of their New Teacher Development Program. Instituted over a decade ago, this program includes a mentoring program for first-year teachers, with the goal of providing them with the knowledge, skills, and support they need to strengthen their instructional practice and help students succeed.
District leaders approached the REL and asked us to partner with them to examine and assess the mentoring program. Our collaboration began with a logic model workshop, using materials from a Logic Model Workshop Toolkit that Karen created with our REL Northeast & Islands colleague Sheila Rodriguez. REL Northeast & Islands staff facilitated a training with BPS district staff and school-based mentors to collectively create a program logic model that would identify the resources they dedicate to the program, the activities that mentors and teachers do in the program, and the desired goals and outcomes for teachers and students.
Once the logic model was complete and clear outcomes were articulated, our discussions with BPS turned to data collection for the mentoring program. Four questions guided our conversations and could be used by any practitioner considering the data they need to answer questions about their programs:
Our BPS partners found this process of considering and reviewing these questions to be an important first step before planning for data analysis to examine the outcomes of the mentoring program. The process helped ensure that current and future data-collection efforts are aligned to the program’s goals and can accurately measure the program’s activities and outcomes.
“We used something called a data considerations document that was provided by the REL team,” explains Jalene Tamerat, director of New Teacher Development for BPS and one of our partners on this project. “That was helpful. It allowed us to organize the data that existed, but also in a more direct way, think about what kind of data we need as we’re moving through our process, not collect data for the sake of just collecting data anymore.”
This iterative and collaborative data coaching led to the following concrete actions related to the mentoring program data the district collected this past school year and plans to collect in future years:
This process of identifying gaps in their current data-collection efforts and creating a strong data plan for the future—all tied to the goals and outcomes articulated in the program logic model—will allow BPS to conduct an evaluation in the future in order to improve their new-teacher mentoring program.
Contact us to learn more about REL Northeast & Islands training, coaching, and technical support for your state, district, or school.
Want to learn more about this project? Watch a short video to hear what BPS staff and REL Northeast & Islands researchers say about this work.