Last month, we looked at how distributed leadership teams can create the conditions for positive change within schools. One of the key ways they do this is by studying data and using insights from that data to drive their improvement efforts. What does this cycle of data-driven improvement look like in practice? Here are three ways that strong leadership teams use data to help teachers better support their students.

1) They carefully analyze data and structure the team around a common goal or problem of practice that has emerged from the data. For example, while looking closely at schoolwide, disaggregated student data, a leadership team might discover that English learners in their school are performing at lower levels than expected on summative assessments. Based on this data, they might set a clear and measurable goal to foster a goal to improve performance among English learners by taking different instructional approaches, such as integrating language and content instruction. If the entire team focuses on taking this approach to solving the problem, they can collaborate to ensure it’s a schoolwide improvement effort.

2) They empower teachers to use student data to make informed decisions about how they teach and support students. When a leadership team creates a culture in which teachers understand and take ownership for their students’ data, then teachers are more likely to seek out data and use it to inform their instructional practices. It’s important that leaders make it clear that these data are not being used to evaluate teachers but instead to support their professional learning and grow their support for students.

3) They use data to track their progress and adjust course when necessary. Data can help identify an emergent issue, but it also can signal whether an improvement effort is working—or if the team should adjust their approach. Understanding which practices are most effective in improving results for students also can help teams think about ways to scale up those effective practices to maximize the positive impact.