Data Driven Decision Making Doesn’t Mean Getting Run Over
Leaders in education face a tsunami of expectations from business, government and community members on how to deliver results. A cry for innovation and wiser spending from the public has lead to commitments from educational organizations that there will be a stronger movement towards data driven decision making. Exactly what data sources should be used and what metrics should be put in place are as varied as the entities insisting on change. The movement to data driven decision making can be a meaningful, positive tool for change in education. It is also an opportunity to communicate essential information to the public, industry and government by talking in their terms.
Making data driven decisions should not mean blindly converting to metrics without connection to the business of education. Education knows and understands tracking enrollments and completions. It continues to advance, improve and fine tune student success initiatives. Demographics are being sorted to discover trends in student populations and provide relevant support structures.
Taking the data to deeper levels or re-framing the data allows bridges to business and industry so they can understand and support your objectives. Take three pressing topics in education as examples; college completion rates, remedial education needs and budget shortfalls. All three topics stimulate discussion regarding data presented and provoke strong public opinion. Pulling pertinent data from a variety of sources can help provide a holistic picture as well as allowing the message to be tailored to the audience.
Just consider the variety of data sources available. Everything from the impactful story of a single student to trends in student class evaluations. Advisory groups, business meetings, faculty committees and student groups provide opportunities for focus groups or small surveys. Data for local, state and national trends can speak to demographic shifts, wage adjustments, industry advances. Education messages containing information connecting to community diversity, work readiness and the return on investment generally resonate with public and industry groups.
Perhaps using data on completion rates could be augmented to highlight how industry could support the effort to improve rates. Present information on local industries and the hiring trends in the community. Do students tend to pick up part-time work, shift work or seasonal work with them? Are employers offering schedules that allow for students to work and go to school? What are projected skill deficits for new industries and what education programs are in place to prepare that workforce? Data can provide windows of opportunities for business or other organizations to support the education mission.
It’s time to talk data, so take the steering wheel.
Author Perspective: Administrator
Author Perspective: Community College