A study to determine what student outcome data principals use for school improvement

Date of Completion

January 2001


Education, Administration




There is general agreement among policy leaders, educators and the general public that student achievement in American public schools is not at the level it should and must be. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, students have not performed as well as the public, the business community, state legislators, parents and even educators had hoped. ^ In order for student learning to improve there must be opportunities for educators to engage in meaningful teamwork, schools must establish clear, measurable goals and performance data related to these goals must be collected on a regular basis and used to establish benchmarks. Finally, principals must analyze and provide feedback to teachers on how students are doing toward the attainment of these goals. Building principals play an important role in seeing that these factors are woven into the fabric of a school's culture (Schmoker 1996; Evans 1996; Connecticut State Department of Education 1996). ^ This study examines what information building principals use to make decisions about student learning in their schools and how they use this information to improve learning for all students. The study also looks at how student learning goals are determined and what data are collected and analyzed to assess progress toward the goals. A survey was developed and randomly administered to principals of Connecticut elementary, middle and high schools to assess how they set and monitor learning targets in their schools. As principals from all levels K–12 were questioned as part of the study, their responses allow for a clearer understanding of data used for decision-making at each level (elementary, middle, high). A lower than expected survey return rate resulted in the addition of nine semi-structured interviews with building principals across levels and reference groups to determine the role that data driven decision-making plays in their schools. ^