Research News

New book offers administrators guide to using data to improve their schools

Data can help school administrators boost student achievement, support teacher performance and improve parent-school relations, according to a new book by Vanderbilt University education faculty.

The book, Leading with Data: Pathways to Improve Your School, was written by Ellen Goldring, professor of education policy and leadership, and Mark Berends, associate professor and director of the National Center on School Choice at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development. It outlines how administrators can and should use data to improve their schools.

“School administrators, now more than ever, are bombarded with demands to be accountable and to raise student achievement,” Goldring said. “Too often, policy decisions are made without any reference to what is shown to be working, or not working, at a particular school or in the larger educational system. We wrote this book to give school administrators guidance on how to use data to make decisions based on their students’ and teachers’ performance and needs, and to help identify, collect and analyze the most useful data.”

Standards-based reform continues to be a primary driver of education policy in the United States, and all of its components – content and performance standards, curriculum and instructional alignment, assessments and accountability – assume that data will be collected, reported and used. However, these standards vary from state to state and often miss school-level conditions, complicating administrators’ abilities to meet calls for reform and to use the data in a manner that meaningfully impacts student achievement.

“The uses of data extend beyond test scores to community, school and classroom conditions that support positive student outcomes,” Berends said. “Being able to support your decisions with a variety of verifiable data, and make mid-course corrections based on those data, will help administrators build stronger and more meaningful relationships with all of their various stakeholders. And in an era of increasing school choice, good data is essential to marketing your school to parents of prospective students.”

The book details how to collect and analyze relevant data for school improvement and student learning and how to use it to guide decisions. In addition to test scores, data can include student and program information, student work, portfolios, performance reviews and more.

Throughout the book, the authors outline four key reasons for using data to drive decisions: to work toward continuous improvement; to meet accountability requirements; to focus efforts and monitor progress; and to develop a sense of community through organizational learning.

The book is soon to be released by Corwin Press.

For more information about Vanderbilt’s Peabody College, ranked the No. 2 education school in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in 2008, visit

Media Contact: Melanie Moran, (615) 322-NEWS