More Than a Number: Tools for Talking about Education Data

More Than a Number: Tools for Talking about Education Data

Proactive, two-way communication is the best way to create an environment in which people trust, value, and use data to help students excel. High-quality data is essential to achieving education goals, yet it is often discussed only in terms of data systems and accountability. Data is most valuable when it is providing useful information to support students.

The resources on this page are designed for state and local leaders and advocates to help them plan and act on communications about the value of data and its collection, use, and protection in their state—and about why data is valuable to student learning.

The toolkit emphasizes three core components of any strategy for talking about education data, and within each component are tools that can be used to develop a comprehensive communications strategy that meets your audience’s needs.

Language about data can be technical and cold, and it often leaves audiences confused. These tools are not about spin or saying the “best” thing, but are instead meant to help leaders unpack a tricky topic and be clear in communications about data.

Download the entire toolkit here, or see the pieces individually below.

Introduction: Why Talk about Data? and Using this Toolkit

  • Click here to download the introduction to this toolkit.

Talk about people, not systems

Behind every data point is a student. Authentic stories about students and educators—in jargon-free language—will go a long way to show how data helps real people.

  • Talk like your audience. Most people are not data and policy experts. These tools provide tips on talking to parents, teachers, and others about their information needs.
  • Tell stories about students. To trust and value data, people need to understand how it is used to help actual students succeed. This tool provides tips on telling stories about how different policies and practices affect real classrooms, students, and families in your community.

Equip your messengers

Effective communication is more than a press release. It’s about listening to people and meeting their information needs—and it does not come from only communications professionals.

Be proactive

People should not hear about data for the first time when there is a problem. Clear, ongoing communication leads to an environment in which people value, trust, and use data.

  • Find opportunities to communicate. This tool shows how email newsletters, social media, and op-eds can be used to reach teachers, parents, and the public where they are and elicit their feedback.

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