Going Deeper: Using Data for Decision Making

Print-friendly version of directions [pdf]

Estimated time: 30 minutes

Audience: parents & families, educators, administrators


Schools all over the country are working to raise achievement for all students and erase the gaps that exist among low-income students, students of color, and their white and more affluent peers. The use of data is a powerful tool in these efforts. Data help uncover areas that need attention and improvement. Data also let us know when strategies are working or need to be re-evaluated. This activity allows participants to explore how teachers think about data when planning future instruction.

Data is at the heart of any successful school improvement process and provides information regarding:

  • whether students are mastering the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in later grades, in college, and in the workforce
  • whether achievement gaps exist between certain groups of students, that is, whether some students are doing well while others are lagging behind
  • whether student achievement has been improving or declining over time, and whether achievement gaps between groups have been increasing or decreasing
  • whether all students are being provided with the opportunities they need to learn, including qualified teachers, a rigorous curriculum, and adequate resources
  • whether other area schools with students like yours are doing well so you can learn from them.    

From: Making Data Work: Parent and Community Guide 


This activity has a variety of tasks explore data. Three handouts from the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring provide very easy to understand information on data and curriculum-based measurement. An activity includes reviewing two different sets of data – one showing individual student data, the other classroom data. The objective is to provide an example of what data can be reviewed and the questions school staff must ask to help all children succeed.

Link to RtI Concepts and/or Research-based practices

Epstein’s Six Types of Family-School-Community Partnerships:  Communication, Decision Making

Wisconsin RtI Framework essential element: high quality instruction, balanced assessment, collaboration


1. Read the three articles from the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring: “Curriculum Based Measurement and Statewide Tests,” “What is Curriculum Based Measurement and What Does it Mean to My Child,” and “Fact Sheet: Benefits of Curriculum Based Measurement.”  These articles provide basic information about data. Data is collected at all levels (statewide data to district to school to classroom to individual student). There are different assessments and measures taken depending upon what needs to be measured.     

2. Print or view the handout Using Data for Decision Making. There are two examples for your review. The first example is of a curriculum embedded assessment analysis.  Read over the handout paying close attention to how the data is read both horizontally and vertically. The handout is a snapshot of three students and how well they perform. The following are questions a teacher might ask as he or she is looking at these three students and deciding what type of instructional support an individual student might need or benefit from:  

  1. Were there enough practice opportunities provided in the curriculum? 
  2. How many practice opportunities did students receive?
  3. Did all students participate in the guided practice and feedback?  
  4. Did all students receive specific, corrective feedback?  
  5. Were all students actively engaged? 
  6. What formative assessments were used during instruction to determine student understanding?

3. Next review page 3 of the handout Using Data for Decision Making. This is an example of classroom data on reading. The teacher included comments regarding each student. The following are abbreviations used in the example and their meanings:

ORF = oral reading fluency
RTF = retell fluency
NWF = nonsense word fluency
BM = benchmark   

For Reflection:

  • Which students are on target?
  • Which students are advanced?
  • Which students need some supplemental interventions?
  • Which students need intensive supplemental interventions?
  • Ask the question, “How are we doing?”

4. Read the two additional National Center on Student Progress Monitoring articles: “Student Progress Monitoring: What This Means for Your Child” and “What Can I Do to Make Sure My Child Receives the Benefits of CBM?” Consider using the ideas with your school as you learn more about data and how it is used in your school.


Going Deeper

Additional Activities

Additional Resources


Group Activity

Estimated time: 45 minutes

Activity Directions for Groups [pdf]

Additional Handouts:

  • None