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Back when I was a high school parent, I served on the school improvement committee. I kept asking for data on achievement, attendance, test results, and so forth, but it was early on in the life of data use for schools, so mostly I was met with blank looks.

Finally, one year, to fulfill a requirement for a grant from the state, the school gave reading tests to all the incoming freshmen. The resulting data were presented to the committee.

As I recall, about one-third of the incoming students were reading at a college level, one-third were reading at or a bit above the eighth-grade level, and the rest of the students were reading at lower levels, with a horrifying number reading below the third-grade level.

I asked the principal what he was going to do to respond to the data, and he said that there was nothing to do. But, he added, the data did explain the high school’s low graduation rate.

That was an example of an educator using data simply to explain failure rather than to look for what the school could do to make things better, and I suspect it happens far too frequently.

In Huffington Post this week, I talk about some of the more effective ways school leaders should look at data.

(And if you who would like to meet educators who use data to spur improvement, rather than explain failure, you should come to the Education Trust 2014 National Conference Nov. 13-14 in Baltimore. The conference will feature quite a few of them.)

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