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Data Management in Education: Why School Principals Should Have Data Literacy Skills

Tasked with managing a myriad of responsibilities, such as communication, budgeting and staff development, school principals must be proficient in many areas. While often overlooked, data literacy is another key skill for effective principals.

Data literacy encompasses accessing, interpreting and using data ethically to make decisions and improve outcomes. It allows business leaders to understand the story behind the numbers and statistics.

In today’s educational landscape, where data is everywhere, from standardized test scores to attendance records, having data literacy skills is a veritable superpower for principals. It allows them to gather insights about their school or student body, identify areas for improvement and then take action to make meaningful changes.

Imagine a principal who can analyze student performance data and use that information to tailor instruction or optimize resource allocation. That’s the power of data literacy in action. For administrators wanting to improve how they use data to make decisions, Norfolk University’s online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Urban Education with a concentration in Principal Preparation program is ideal.

What Is Data Literacy in Education?

When discussing the essential skills for effective school leadership, data literacy deserves special emphasis. After all, in a world ruled by information, those who harness the power of data can more easily and consistently create positive outcomes for students and schools alike.

According to the Regional Education Laboratory Program, school principals at every level of education should practice data literacy daily by using data to inform decision-making, conduct regular reporting, assess outreach effectiveness, gauge student performance and revise curricula. This momentum of data engagement can shape educational policy.

However, many educators find monitoring and analyzing data intimidating, leading to disengagement. According to an Edutopia article on building data literacy skills, administrators can address this issue by introducing a Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) model and a comprehensive data literacy framework, including:

  • Assessing educators’ data literacy
  • Offering professional development (PD) to improve data literacy
  • Standardizing terminology for discussing data
  • Effectively analyzing and presenting data

When administrators faithfully implement the PDSA model and a robust data literacy framework, they purposefully enhance each educator’s data literacy, resulting in a stronger team overall.

Why Is Data Important in Education?

As states prioritize enhancing overall school quality to ensure success for all students, using data in education becomes more critical. There is a growing need for a workforce of school and district administrators proficient in leveraging data for continuous improvement.

State leaders have a unique opportunity to align policies and programs to train and support these administrators. A new report from Data Quality Campaign regarding how administrators use data literacy to foster student success explains that state policymakers must take the lead by creating policies ensuring administrators have the necessary skills to interpret and effectively utilize data in education.

The report states that without administrators who can effectively use data to inform decision-making, states, districts and schools will struggle to achieve their goals for continuous improvement and improved student outcomes.

How to Become a School Principal

The school principal is critical in setting the vision, direction and tone for the entire school community. Principals are responsible for fostering a positive learning environment, supporting teachers and ensuring students’ success and well-being.

A recent Education Advanced article says effective leadership from principals can transform schools into vibrant centers of learning that inspire, support and motivate students to excel.

Being a school principal encompasses a myriad of responsibilities. Along with mastering data literacy, principals lead by example, inspiring teachers and staff. They instill a passion for education in others, provide strong leadership, establish a solid foundation and set attainable goals.

Mastering Data Literacy Skills for the Future

Principals need to understand data for many reasons. Norfolk State’s CAEP-accredited online M.A. Urban Education – Principal Preparation program helps students improve their data utilization. Graduates are equipped to apply data to track student progress, improve teaching methods and plan for the future.

One of the courses, Research Methods, teaches important data-handling skills. Students learn to gather, organize and understand data effectively and perform research to guide their proposal writing. In this class, students explore, investigate, collect and identify ways data can be a productive tool.

This program provides advanced training in data analysis techniques, enabling principals to interpret assessment results and implement targeted interventions to support student success at all educational levels.

Graduates of Norfolk State’s program are well suited for roles as principals, assistant principals and district-level administrators. Overall, the program provides principals with the knowledge and skills necessary to leverage data, ultimately improving student achievement and school success.

Learn more about Norfolk State University’s online Master of Arts in Urban Education with a concentration in Principal Preparation program.

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