• Jake Madden Executive Principal, Al Yasat Private School, Abu Dhabi, UAE



Data Driven Change, Teacher Development, School Leadership, School Improvement, Research Guided


Schools have been caught up in responding to the calls of external accountability. This has challenged school leaders to establish data gathering practices that ultimately lend themselves to creating school wide instructional systems to impact teaching and learning and offer a consistent instructional approach. This paper outlines how one school established a data driven approach to improve teacher performance by focusing on key elements using a literature focused approach as a catalyst for driving new innovation. The paper considers how a data driven focus (DDF) allows leaders to intentionally and systematically improve student learning. The paper begins by unpacking the new focus on instructional leadership. It unveils how leaders are required to create the foundation to develop a DDF as a vehicle to facilitate information about student achievement within the school. The second part of the paper reports on the change process used to implement DDF as guided by key elements. It entails a 6-step cycle involving 1) developing a desire for change, 2) reflection on data, 3) aligning school programs & curricula, 4) Understanding by Design instructional practices and professional development, 5) provision of feedback, and 6) nurturing teacher implementation. It reviews how one school, through the focus of improving instruction and intentionally using key literature-based concepts, developed a raised awareness for using curriculum and assessment data to guide decision making. This paper provides a rich example of how a school can facilitate and sustain a data-based decision-making culture in schools. The paper concludes that being a data-focused school is a possibility for each and every school.


Bulach, C., & Lunenburg, F. C. (2008). Creating a Culture for High-Performing Schools: A comprehensive approach to school reform. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Christensen, T., & Laegreid, P. (2015). Performance and accountability—A theoretical discussion and an empirical assessment. Public Organization Review, 15(2), 207-225.

Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Powerful lessons in personal change. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Diamond, J. B., & Spillane, J. P. (2004). High-stakes accountability in urban elementary schools: Challenging or reproducing inequality? Teachers college record, 106(6), 1145-1176.

Goren, P. (2010). Interim assessments as a strategy for improvement: Easier said than done. Peabody Journal of Education, 85(2), 125–129.

Hallinger, P. (1983), “Assessing the instructional management behavior of principals”, ERIC Document No. 8320806, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University, Stanford, CA.

Halverson, R., Grigg, J., Prichett, R., & Thomas, C. (2007). The new instructional leadership: Creating data-driven instructional systems in school. Journal of School Leadership, 17(2), 159-194.

Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital: Transforming teaching in every school. New York: Teachers College Press.

Harris, A. (2002). School improvement: What's in it for schools? London: Falmer Press.

Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.

Hattie, J (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Routledge.

Hirsh, S. (2009). A new definition. Journal of Staff Development, 30(4), 10–16.

Hunzicker, J. (2012). Professional development and job-embedded collaboration: How teachers learn to exercise leadership. Professional development in education, 38(2), 267-289.

Katzenmeyer, M., & Moller, G. (2001). Awakening the sleeping giant: Leadership development for teachers (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Kelley, C., and Peterson, K. (2007). The Work of Principals and Their Preparation: Addressing Critical Needs for the Twenty-First Century. In the Jossey-Bass reader on educational leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 351-401.

Lee, J., & Reeves, T. (2012). Revisiting the impact of NCLB high-stakes school accountability, capacity, and resources: State NAEP 1990–2009 reading and math achievement gaps and trends. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 34(2), 209-231.

Lunenburg, F, & Ornstein (2008). Educational administration: Concepts and Practices. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

Lynch, D., Madden, J., & Knight, B. A. (2014). Harnessing professional dialogue, collaboration and content in context: An exploration of a new model for teacher professional learning. International Journal of Innovation, Creativity and Change, 1(3), 1-15.

Lynch, D., & Smith, R. (2016). Readiness for school reform. International Journal of Innovation, Creativity and Change, 2(3), 1.

Lynch, D., Smith, R., & Menter, I. (2016). Building school readiness for teaching improvement: the first step. International Journal of Innovation, Creativity and Change, 2(4), 103-121.

Lynch, D., Smith, R., Provost, S., Yeigh, T., & Turner, D. (2017). The correlation between ‘Teacher Readiness’ and student learning improvement. International Journal of Innovation, Creativity and Change, 3(1), 1.

Madden, J. (2012), School Improvement: Innovation for the Future. In Smith, R & Lynch D, (2012) Case Studies in Education: Leadership and Innovation, (p 148-174), Primrose Hall Publishing Group, Brisbane.

Madden, J. (2017). Alignment, Capability and Engagement: Is Your School Ready for School Improvement? Journal of Education and Human Development, 6(4), 50-56.

Mandinach, E.B., & Honey, M. (Eds.). (2008). Data driven school improvement: Linking data and learning. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Marks, H. M., & Printy, S. M. (2003). Principal leadership and school performance: An integration of transformational and instructional leadership. Educational administration quarterly, 39(3), 370-397.

Marsh, J. A., & Farrell, C. C. (2015). How leaders can support teachers with data-driven decision making: A framework for understanding capacity building. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 43(2), 269-289.

Marzano, R. J. (2012). Teacher evaluation. Educational Leadership, 70(3), 14-19.

Merriam, S. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Montgomery, J. L., & Baker, W. (2007). Teacher-written feedback: Student perceptions, teacher self-assessment, and actual teacher performance. Journal of Second Language Writing, 16(2), 82-99.

Piyaman, P., Hallinger, P., & Viseshsiri, P. (2017). Addressing the achievement gap: Exploring principal leadership and teacher professional learning in urban and rural primary schools in Thailand. Journal of Educational Administration, 55(6), 717-734.

Robinson, V., Lloyd, C. and Rowe, K. (2008), “The impact of leadership on student outcomes: an analysis of the differential effects of leadership types”, Educational Administration Quarterly, Vol. 44 No. 5, pp. 564-588.

Rustique-Forrester, E. (2005). Accountability and the pressures to exclude: A cautionary tale from England. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 13(26).

Sergiovanni, T. J. (2007). Rethinking leadership. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Shen, J., & Cooley, V. E. (2008). Critical issues in using data for decision-making. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 11(3), 319–329.

Shirley, D., & Hargreaves, A. (2006). Data-driven to distraction. Education Week, 26(6), 32–33.

Sims, S. (2016). High-stakes accountability and teacher turnover: How do different school inspection judgements affect teachers’ decisions to leave their school. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Social Science, University College of London, England.

Timperley, H., (2009). Using assessment data for improving teaching practice. Research Conference: Assessment and Student Learning: Collecting, interpreting and using data to inform teaching, Perth, 16-18 August, 2009, ACER.

Valli, L., & Buese, D. (2007). The changing roles of teachers in an era of high-stakes accountability. American Educational Research Journal, 44(3), 519-558.

Wayman, J. C., Stringfield, S., & Yakimowski, M. (2004). Software enabling school improvement through the analysis of student data (Report No. 67). Retrieved March 20, 2019, from Center for Social Organization of Schools Web site: 67.pdf

Wiggins, G., Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Ascd.

Young, V.M. (2006). Teacher’s use of data: Loose coupling, agenda setting, and team norms. American Journal of Education, 112, 521–548.




How to Cite