Changing Education Agencies from the Inside Out: Year 2 Report on the Strategic Data Project and Education Pioneers

Changing Education Agencies from the Inside Out: Year 2 Report on the Strategic Data Project and Education Pioneers

Published: Oct 29, 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research
Associated Project

Strategic Data Use in Education

Time frame: 2011-2015

Prepared for:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


Cassie Pickens Jewell

Libby Makowsky

Jacob Hartog

Key Findings

Key Findings:

  • Partnerships with Strategic Data Project (SDP) and Education Pioneers (EP) have enabled education agencies to develop new and meaningful practices for using data, and many agencies continue to refine and build on what they have learned and implemented.
  • Agencies have built data systems to include linked data from multiple sources; agency staff acknowledge the importance of data use and of technically skilled employees to support it, and they are working to increase analytic capacity by hiring technically skilled staff, developing partnerships with vendors, or providing training to support data use.
  • Although agencies analyze data for single initiatives, this kind of measurement and analysis has not always impacted agency-wide policies and practices, according to the staff and fellows from whom we gathered information. It appears likely that many agency staff (other than fellows) do not know what questions to ask, what data to use, or most importantly, how to interpret findings and draw inferences to improve policy and practice.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation invested in two programs, the Strategic Data Project (SDP) and Education Pioneers (EP), that seek to provide, train, and support staff (known as fellows) who can enhance the capacity of school districts and other education agencies to collect, manage, analyze, and use data. The foundation contracted with Mathematica Policy Research to conduct a descriptive implementation study of these programs through longitudinal, in-depth case studies of the agencies employing SDP and EP fellows. The study was designed to describe agencies’ capacity for and use of data. Overall, the study team found that the capacity for data use or activities related to data use was similar among agencies partnered with SDP or EP, although SDP and EP’s approaches to affecting data-driven decision making in education agencies differ. There were, however, differences in the capacity for using data, and in data use activities, between agencies that had partnered with SDP or EP for longer periods of time and those new to their partnerships.

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