Communications, State Advocacy

Case Studies: The Art of the Possible in Action

Case Studies: The Art of the Possible in Action

Leaders do not need to start from square one to make data work for students. By modeling concrete examples of effective data use, state and district leaders can utilize lessons learned and avoid unintended consequences. The following are success stories, case studies, and interviews from DQC that demonstrate the art of the possible and should serve as a starting point for leaders looking to put data to work for students in their communities.

Success Stories

  • Chicago Makes Data the Centerpiece of a District-Wide Improvement Strategy:  In 2006, over a third of Chicago’s public school students failed to graduate high school. Since then the city’s graduation rate has shot up and its college enrollment rate is higher than the nations. This guest post, written by the researchers who made the work possible, reflects on the data-driven strategies that have led to improved outcomes and opportunities for the city’s most vulnerable students.
  • Chronic Absence Brings a Community Together to Support StudentsStudents cannot receive a high-quality education if they are not in school. Chronic absence—defined as missing excessive amounts of school for any reason—continues to affect students across all demographics, leading to greater achievement gaps and dropout rates. Leaders in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania used data to collaboratively address this issue with community partners.
  • Community Partnerships Blog Series:  Our blog series showcases examples of effective school-community partnership from across the country—and how states can support building secure, data-supported out-of-school time (OST) partnerships.

Case Studies

  • Empowering Families with Data: How Washington, DC Engaged Stakeholders to Build Its School Report Card:  School report cards are the primary way states communicate information that families want and need about schools, but too often, these resources are difficult to find and understand. Leaders in Washington, DC, capitalized on the opportunity to engage stakeholders in the development of their new report card to ensure this resource met the needs of all families across the District. This case study tells the story of DC’s stakeholder engagement strategy and provides key lessons for states to consider when approaching their own stakeholder engagement.
  • State Support Helps Districts Use Evidence Locally to Improve Education:  School and district leaders make many important education decisions but don’t always have the tools to evaluate their impact. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) encourages states to support the use of evidence by local leaders in many ways, including through research-practice partnerships. This case study includes action steps and lessons learned from four states and the District of Columbia. State leaders can draw from these examples to create a culture of evidence-based continuous improvement in districts and schools.
  • The Art of the Possible: Data Governance Lessons Learned from Kentucky, Maryland, and Washington:  To securely share data across agencies in service of students, states must have a high-quality data governance in place. This body or process is designed to make decisions about how state education data is linked, used, accessed, and protected, and is key to establishing a culture of effective data use in states. This case study highlights data governance bodies in three states and shares more about the unique context of each body and how it has contributed to alignment across and education and workforce efforts.
  • Using Social-Emotional Learning Data in the CORE Districts: Lessons Learned:  For years, student test scores drove much of the conversation about school quality and student learning. But new ESSA state accountability plans show that policymakers are using a broader set of measures to assess school quality. This case study provides a framework for states and districts to better understand California’s CORE Districts’ work measuring and reporting on nonacademic indicators over the past five years.
  • Using Data to Drive Success in Educator Prep:  Teacher quality is widely cited as the most important in-school factor affecting student achievement, yet many new teachers report feeling unprepared to execute key classroom responsibilities. This case study spotlights how leaders in Massachusetts took action to put a learner-ready teacher in every classroom by ensuring data was being used as a tool for continuous improvement by its educator preparation programs.


  • How Leaders in Illinois are Empowering Educators with Secure Access to Student Data:  Illinois is working to guarantee access and protect privacy by equipping teachers with their students’ data through the Ed360 dashboard. Ed360 will support student instruction by giving teachers secure, near real-time access to information from the state’s data warehouse. DQC interviewed Kara Mernaugh, the Ed360 outreach coordinator for the Illinois State Board of Education, to learn more about how this work was developed and the lessons learned for other states looking to empower educators with secure access to student data.
  • How Leaders in the Nation’s Capital Make Parent Engagement Possible:  Washington, DC is working to be transparent and build trust by proactively and continuously engaging families in the development and improvement of its school report card. The city’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), in partnership with trusted community-based organizations, has engaged over 4,000 community voices throughout the city, over 70 percent of which were parents. DQC interviewed Chloe Woodward-Magrane, deputy director of communications at OSSE, to learn more about how this work emerged and the lessons learned for other states looking to improve parent engagement.