Interpreting Data to Drive Instruction: Data-Driven Decision Making for Teachers

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it 1,000 times…… data is the driving force of decision-making. Effective Head Start programs develop a culture of data-driven decision making, the process of making choices based on appropriate analysis of programmatic information. As programs consider multiple data sources and analyze their results, they are able to create changes that increase their overall quality and improve child outcomes.

Teachers play a critical role in this process through the use of ongoing assessment data to guide classroom instruction. Observing and gathering assessment information for every child is the starting point for decision-making in the classroom. Teachers must be intentional with every step in the assessment-instructional cycle, increasing their interpretive skills in order to monitor and support student progress.

Here are a few suggestions for strengthening this process:

  • Focused Observations: Teachers must target their observations and look closely for specific information. After observing that a child has difficulty with a given task, teachers take a more in-depth look at the areas of development that would support (or hinder) success in that task.
  • Interpret Data: Following a focused observation, teachers develop a hypothesis to be tested at the next instructional opportunity. For example, “Could Sara do the task if I provide more visual cues?” or “Could she do this in a different context?”
  • Adapt and Modify: Teachers use their data to design intentional groupings of students, increase environmental supports and adjust their instructional interactions to support students’ needs.
  • Engage Families: Parents are always an important part of the cycle, including the assessment feedback loop. The process of sharing with families provides teachers more information to improve their classroom practice and target learning goals.

Could your classroom staff strengthen their teaching strategies while using their assessments of children’s play to drive instruction?

Contact us at (704) 451-3255 or email us at to shedule training for your Teachers to support them with data-driven decision making.

Strategic Planning: Setting the Direction for Your Program

Does your strategic plan include broad, long-range goals that define what your program wants to accomplish and short-term objectives that are specific and measurable? Are the goals and objectives based on your program’s critical documents? Strategic planning is a great opportunity to bring stakeholders together, provide focus for the program and ensure that everyone is on the same page. When creating your strategic plan, consider the following:

  • Achieve buy-in before you begin. Include all stakeholders in strategic planning to establish buy-in from the beginning. Staff from a variety of positions (teachers, family service workers, center directors, home visitors, management staff, etc.) will bring a different point of view. Also invite members from your Policy Council and Board of Directors. Ask everyone to complete a survey prior to strategic planning. Be sure the survey includes questions about what they want the program to accomplish for children, families, staff and community.
  • Create a list of your program’s strengths and challenges. This list should contain valuable information to establish your program’s goals and objectives. The challenges represent potential goals and the strengths represent potential strategies to achieve the goals. Also take time to review your program’s mission, vision and guiding principles. Ensure that they accurately reflect what you are working to achieve. Finally, for each goal and objective, in addition to timelines and persons responsible, include a “success indicator” column. This information will specifically describe how it will look when each goal is achieved.
  • Review and utilize your programmatic data. Strategic planning is a great time to collect and review key programmatic documents as a group. Critical data includes items such as your community assessment, self-assessment, child assessment data, CLASS data, ongoing monitoring data and family engagement data, just to name a few. Review this important data when creating your goals and objectives.

Looking for someone to facilitate your program’s Strategic Planning and end up with a written Strategic Plan? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at