In a previous article, I asked educators to consider the stories they could tell using culturally-situated data dialogues. Here I return to the significance of centering culture in data dialogues, because discussions about student academic performance and overall development are inadequate and potentially harmful when excluding explicit examination of how issues of race, ethnicity, gender, language, and social class shape instruction and learning outcomes. Oftentimes students who have been historically disenfranchised by the educational system are the subgroups of focus for academic intervention (e.g., low-income students, boys of color, English Language Learners). Using data dialogues to better understand how culture mediates school leadership, parent engagement, teacher instruction, and student learning can result in more focused goal-setting for school improvement plans and identification of expectations that are culturally relevant and responsive.

If educators consider that school improvement plans should define how the school will work on meeting research-based expectations in specific areas related to improving student achievement, there are four key areas that should be prioritized. These include:

  1. Effective school-based leadership
  2. High-quality instructional practice
  3. High-quality professional learning
  4. Effective family and community engagement

If school leaders and teachers can agree that effectiveness in the aforementioned areas is critical for increased student achievement for the most academically distressed students, then data dialogues will be grounded in cultural examinations that lead to culturally responsive and relevant school improvement plans. Below is a tool that can be used in data dialogues and school improvement team meetings where the four aforementioned areas have priority in the plans. The questions listed below (and in the tool for download at the bottom) can be used in data for goal-setting for the academic year:

   Effective School-Based Leadership  High-Quality Instructional Practice High-Quality Professional Learning (PD)  Effective Family and Community Engagement
What does existing research tell us about best practices in this area as it relates to achievement for our underperforming students?         
 What does our data reveal about level of effectiveness in this area?        
 Where do we need to go, given where we are (identify 2-3 goals)?        


Attending to these questions across these four areas allows educators to use data to meet school and community expectations. Continuous and reflective use of data is fundamental to the work of accountability. Schools that believe in continuous improvement seek out and use information to improve performance. This includes examining their practices with themselves and the broader community. The tool provided allows educators to move toward culturally relevant and responsive school improvement that takes into account all stakeholders.


dorinda tool-01

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