GovernanceCorner Practical tips from our MIG faculty

Using data to guide board decisions
School district and county office of education board members depend on staff to provide them with data specific to various issues. With a common understanding of data and its uses, boards can work with the superintendent and staff to determine which data is most important in making prudent decisions. The board and superintendent need a common understanding of the use and limitations of data to make these productive data-informed decisions. A board can accomplish this common understanding by engaging in data-focused, ongoing professional development through board workshops, study sessions and/or external professional learning opportunities.

Boards can also establish common agreements about how to discuss data, including how to ask relevant questions. County and district board members can use meeting time to discuss what the data indicates about local educational agency progress and how to respond appropriately. These board protocols include monitoring data to determine progress, using data to discuss program issues as needed, understanding the root causes of problems and for considering the context and meaning of the data.Following are questions boards can ask themselves about how they use data:

  1. What does our protocol look like for requesting data from staff? Do we have a data request protocol in our governance handbook?
  2. What is our definition of “Good to know?” and “Have to know?” When we request data, remember that staff need time to gather it.
  3. Are specific workshops and study sessions scheduled during the year to gain a deeper understanding of data? For example, a budget or Local Control and Accountability Plan workshop or study session?
  4. How much lead time do you need before a board meeting to review the data? Is there a time before the meeting that questions can be asked about specific data points that need additional clarification?
  5. When onboarding new trustees, what data is given to them to help build their capacity and understanding of our district?
It is important for trustees to understand the different data points, as well as how to use them to further the progress of important initiatives in our districts. For further data insights, see CSBA’s publication The School Board Role in Creating the Conditions for Student Achievement: A Review of the Research.