In the modern education landscape, teachers, students, parents, and administrators are becoming aware that creating a positive school culture is more important than ever. External factors always impact the learner's day to day, which has an even larger impact on student success and achievement.
But it can be difficult to make the classroom a safe space to learn, grow, and focus on future goals, especially when budgets are tight. There are many solutions, but one of the most reliable is utilizing data to inform smarter decisions and spending.
Let's get into some of the most meaningful ways to use student data to create a positive learning experience and school culture.
Positive School Culture by the Numbers
When working to improve school culture, there are a few important distinctions to make, notably between the culture and climate.
School climate is an educational institution's impact on a student, including the amount of diversity at the institution, particular teaching practices, and the relationship between those involved with the education process. On the other hand, school culture is the shared and encouraged values and beliefs, which can have significant consequences on student achievement.
Here are some of the most common roadblocks that can prevent schools from reaching their potential:
For the past few years, employee turnover has been a serious problem for students and administrators. According to UNC Research, "teacher attrition from NCPS fell from just under 12% in 2017-18 to 10.3% in 2020-21." This can lead to an overall downfall in school and student performance and morale, dragging down the learner culture. Not only are teachers leaving the profession quickly, but new hires are also extremely low in most school districts, as well, which is detrimental to instruction.
Low-income schools and students get the worst of the negative impacts. Arizona State University found that turnover rates in high-poverty schools are 50% higher than in other educational institutions. With some much turnover, there is a serious impact on both instructional practice and classroom practice. It can also be difficult to conduct consistent professional development.
One of the most valuable contributors to creating a positive school culture is boosting the learner's community. This can be more difficult than ever, especially with so many students participating in class from unconventional locations. Remote learning took off after the COVID-19 pandemic, which created a feeling of isolation among teachers and students.
While not as many school districts are relying on remote learning, community building can still be difficult.
Rebuilding the community requires participation from all facets of the learning environment. This not only means the learners and teachers but also their families and other community members. In both the classroom and extracurricular activities, leaders should focus on increasing community engagement and boosting communication as specific goals.
School administrators are no stranger to dealing with low budgets and having to "make things work." It may seem like there is no way to fit in every need with the allocation of resources that are provided by the government or other methods.
Unfortunately, many of the first things to go when budgets are cut are after-school programs and other extracurricular activities. However, things like sports, clubs, arts, and other activities that are not core learning programs are essential for a positive school culture. They can bring the community together and promote social growth for participants.
School district performance data
To target any of these issues that an administrator might see in their own school district, localized information is necessary. This is critical because American school districts vary widely by budget and challenges, so using specific information makes an important difference. This may include things like attendance rates, assessment scores, participation rates, and average report card grades. However, there are many different kinds of analytics to help leaders make a positive school culture.
Using data to improve schools' culture
Some may think that school culture is subjective and up for debate, but data can make problems much more apparent. The solution may vary, but the first step is to identify areas where the school improvement may be falling behind or struggling. This can be done by collecting social and emotional data, from both students and teachers.
Data points and certain analytics that measure things like feelings, social environments, and emotional well-being are often called "warm data." On the other hand, numerical data like attendance numbers and test scores are referred to as "cold data." Both kinds of information are important in helping school leadership make smart and meaningful decisions for students and measure student progress.
Let's take a closer look at some warm data examples that focus on more subjective topics:
- Student emotional mood when at school
- Students describe their feelings about their homework and at-school work
- Connection about feelings during remote learning processes
This information is gathered in different ways depending on student age groups, but the answers are important regardless of the methodology. It can help inform responsive leadership strategies to boost positive school culture.
Now, here are some useful cold data examples that rely on hard statistics:
- Test scores for various subjects
- Student attendance
- Teacher turnover
The results of cold data analysis are useful in determining how the school environment is affecting student achievement. When in combination, both cold and warm data can let administrators know what the next best step for improving the culture could be. For those who are using the data to create a plan, the context derived from considering both warm and cold data together is important because it paints a more complete picture. The solutions may vary depending on the areas that need continuous improvement, but gathering information and analytics should be completed first.
School use of data-driven tools
To get useful data, schools need the right tools and teachers need to understand how to analyze the results to some extent. Shifting to a more data-driven culture can be difficult at first, but the right educational technology (EdTech) can make the process easier.
Using technology tools, like automated data collection, can make data collection more efficient and simple. This can be a tool like a data management school system that disaggregates data far easier than an employee could do it.
There are many different kinds of software to collect cold data, but the administration and teachers need a method to collect warm data as well. A school leader can use tools like Google Forms and the Mood Meter app to measure information that is not as concrete. While not every school has the budget to buy new technology and software, there are ways to collect important information that will assist in making meaningful change.
Data integration in tomorrow's school districts
The future of improving school culture requires using data to make analytical choices based on reliable information. Before making any big choices or allocating precious resources to a new culture-based program, integrate data into the conversation. This may be disruptive to the status quo at the beginning of its implementation, but the results will speak for themselves.
School culture isn't just buzzwords linked together, it's about creating a space that is conducive to student learning and achievement. The reality is that improving a school's culture requires trend analysis on both a small and large scale to implement meaningful change.
You don't have to tackle this goal alone, and outside resources may be necessary to execute your new plan. Agile Education Marketing can help you identify what these needs are with education data, integrations, and engagement services.
Are you ready to learn more? Reach out to Agile today to get started!