Opportunity to Learn
As district- and school-level leaders face increasing pressure from federal, state, and local accountability mandates there has been increased dependence on using and analyzing student data to help improve student performance. While the reporting of disaggregated data by student subgroup confirms that achievement gaps exist, it does not provide district- and school-level leaders with the diagnostic data needed to identify key factors inhibiting student performance. Identifying and understanding factors hindering student performance is critical knowledge for leaders to cultivate as they work to address elements within their school or district that may need to change if student learning is to improve. This research study examined specific ways district- and school-level leaders go about challenging and helping their community to face the problem of student performance disparities, as well as specific aspects of the situation that may be contributing to the community's collective capacity, to address student performance disparities. Without proper district-level leadership, effectively addressing operational conditions that may lead to disparities in student learning is unlikely. Yet, little is known about which structures and routines district- and school-level leaders perceive to be important when analyzing student data. This single case study presents the results of an examination of student data analysis structures and routines within a small diverse urban Massachusetts district designated by the state as low-performing based on state indicators. In order to further understand structures and routines, interview and document data were reviewed. Four primary findings identified the district leadership's response to educational inequities: (1) a mandate for using data war-rooms and student data walls; (2) a traveling cabinet to ensure uniform review of student data across the schools in the district; (3) a mandate for individual school improvement plans; and (4) the use of school-based instructional coaches.