School leadership that promotes effective implementation and sustainability of teacher Data Teams in a successful middle school
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Educators across the country are expected to be data literate. They must be able to systemically collect and analyze student data to make informed instructional decisions. However, many school leaders lack the knowledge about how to transform mountains of data on student achievement into an action plan that will improve instruction and increase student learning (Boudett, et al., 2007). In addition, time constraints make it difficult for educators to effectively and efficiently collaborate around student data consistently. Most of the research on data use describes the importance for educators to use data to improve student achievement. However, limited research has been documented on the role the campus leader employs when creating a culture of data-driven decision-making as it relates to student achievement. Furthermore, the research on data use in Title 1 schools is also limited. Therefore, it is imperative to examine and describe how a Title 1 middle school principal implemented Data Teams on a campus. Consequently, the goal of this research was to determine how school leaders improve student learning through teacher data teams. The four primary questions this research addressed in this single case study were: 1. What is the role of the principal in implementing successful Data Teams? 2. What campus structures foster the Data Team process? 3. What are the perceptions of teachers regarding the effectiveness of the Data Team? 4. What practices contribute to the sustainability of Data Teams? Data was gathered through semi-structured interviews, direct observations, and document reviews which informed the findings. This research study revealed that the principal played a key leadership role in creating a culture of collaboration and data inquiry by implementing teacher Data Teams. Such leadership role is enacted by: communicating a vision for Data Teams, providing for job-embedded professional development, and offering differentiated support. Structured time, structured meetings, student data system, and structured assessments are structures employed by the school. Student-focused collaboration, enhanced teacher trust, and increased student achievement illustrate evidence of Data Team effectiveness. Shared accountability, building school culture, and focused interventions serve to sustain Data Teams. In conclusion, it can be affirmed the principal has the most influence on what will be supported on a campus. Therefore, the leadership role performed by the principal when guiding a faculty through the implementation of Data Teams must be deliberate and thoughtful. The principal should include key stakeholders in the decision-making process and build capacity among teachers to ensure the sustainability of Data Teams. Furthermore, targeted professional development and structures that allow time for teachers to collaborate are necessary. Because the ultimate goal for schools is student learning, it is important that everyone within the school organization understand their role in the Data Team process.