Data Literacy 101

Data Literacy 101

When educators have secure access to meaningful data, and the time and training to use this data effectively, students and schools succeed. This page showcases resources that leaders at every level can use to build their understanding of data literacy, and the actions that must be taken to meet the needs of educators and make data use a more seamless part of the school day and year.

What does it mean to be a data-literate educator? 

Data-literate educators continuously, effectively, and ethically access, interpret, act on, and communicate multiple types of data from state, local, classroom, and other sources to improve outcomes for students in a manner appropriate to educators’ professional roles and responsibilities.

Teacher Data Literacy

What does teacher data literacy look like in action?

Ms. Bullen’s Data-Rich Year  follows one teacher throughout the school year as she puts her data literacy skills to work to tailor instruction, engage families, and improve her own practice.

This vision of teacher data literacy has become a reality in many classrooms across the country. DQC’s public opinion research found that teachers are actively using data every day to improve student learning and growth:

  • 86% use data to help plan instruction
  • 88% use data to identify learning goals for students
  • 89% use data to know what concepts students are learning

Still, not every classroom is equipped with a data-literate teacher. And while many teachers are putting data to work for their students, most are going above and beyond to do so without the support of administrators and state leaders.

How can my state better support teacher data literacy?

It takes a village to support student success, and when it comes to data, it’s no different. Teachers shouldn’t have to go it alone. The following recommendations, informed by the opinions of teachers themselves, outline what state leaders can do to better support teacher data literacy:

  • Provide teachers with secure access to timely and meaningful student data. In 2019, just 51 percent of teachers reported that they have access to timely academic growth data. Although 65 percent of teachers report having centralized, online access to data, only 48 percent use a central online platform to access it. Nearly half of teachers report using multiple online or non-centralized sources to access data.
  • Support the development of data literacy skills in educator preparation programs. Most teachers build their data literacy skills while already working at their schools, with 45 percent reporting that they taught themselves during this time. Only 17 percent of teachers report learning to use data in their educator preparation program, where teachers are expected to build foundational knowledge that can be applied throughout their careers.
  • Work with districts to make teacher data use a more seamless part of the school day. A whopping 81 percent of teachers report dipping into their personal time to apply student data to their lesson plans and teaching practices. Only 51 percent agree that their principal or assistant principal ensures that teachers have the time they need to use data effectively.

Administrator Data Literacy

What does administrator data literacy look like in action?

Mr. Maya’s Data-Rich Year  follows one principal as he uses data throughout the school year to support student and teacher performance, effectively allocate resources, and create a culture of data use that puts student success at the center.

How can data-literate administrators support teacher data literacy?

Administrators are responsible for creating a culture of effective data use in districts and schools. The following recommendations, informed by the opinions of teachers themselves, outline how administrators can support teacher data literacy in their schools and districts.

  • Go beyond stating support for the value of data by modeling data use. While 77 percent of teachers agree that their principal or assistant principal sets the expectation that using data is an important part of everyone’s job, only 57 percent agree these leaders regularly model data use in service of students. Furthermore, just 67 percent of teachers report that they trust school administrators to use data to support their professional development and growth.
  • Empower teachers with the training needed to become data literate. Only 68 percent of teachers report that their school or district provides enough professional development around accessing data and 67 percent report the same about using data. An even fewer number of teachers (64 percent) report that their school or district’s professional development around data use is useful to them.
  • Carve out time in the school day for teachers to use data in service of students. In 2019, teachers reported spending more time accessing and prepping data (54 percent) than analyzing and applying it to their teaching (46 percent). Despite 46 percent of teachers stating that principals are most responsible for ensuring time in the school day to use data effectively, only 51 percent of teachers believe that their school administrator does so.

Resources to Put a Data-Literate Educator in Every Classroom and School

SOURCE: Online survey conducted within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Data Quality Campaign: May 5-14, 2019, among 750 full-time teachers in the U.S., all of whom were currently employed teaching grades K-12.