Teachers’ Use of Student Data Systems to Improve Instruction


Gallager, L., Means, B., & Padilla, C. (2007). Teachers’ Use of Student Data Systems to Improve Instruction. Report prepared for U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service. Prepared by SRI International, Menlo Park, CA.


The collection, analysis, and use of education data are central to the improvement of student outcomes envisioned by No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Over the past six years, meeting the data requirements of NCLB and adapting or acquiring electronic data systems capable of generating the required student data reports have consumed much of the attention of district and state assessment and technology offices. The assumption of current policymakers is that the use of data from student data systems will lead to positive impacts on instruction and student achievement. But an examination of current practice suggests that the use of electronic student data systems and instructional decision-making are not fully integrated. Data-informed decision making goes beyond the use of an electronic data system; it includes the adoption of a continuous improvement strategy that includes a set of expectations and practices for the ongoing examination of student data to ascertain the effectiveness of educational activities and, subsequently, to refine programs and practices to improve outcomes for students. If data are to influence the quality of the instruction that students receive, teachers who work with students day-to-day need access to timely information relevant to instructional decisions and the skills necessary to make sense of student data reports. Many district and school leaders are working to inspire and support teachers’ involvement in data-informed decision-making. Their efforts, combined with supportive education policies and improved data systems, are aimed at promoting data use practices at the school and classroom levels.

The current brief is the second in a two-part series examining teachers’ access to and use of data from student data systems. The first brief indicated that about half of all teachers (48 percent) reported having access to a student data system in 2004–05, but teachers did not necessarily have appropriate data or tools they needed to make good use of student data in planning and individualizing instruction.

Read more from SRI