Evidence-Driven School Improvement: A guide for using non-academic data for policymakers and school leaders

Evidence-Driven School Improvement: A guide for using non-academic data for policymakers and school leaders

17th January 2018

Launching at the Education World Forum 2018: Evidence-Driven School Improvement: A guide for using non-academic data for policymakers and school leaders, with foreword by Gavin Dykes.

"When schools feel a sense of ownership over instruction, when students feel a sense of ownership over their learning, that is when productive learning takes place. But strengthening trust, transparency, professional autonomy and a collaborative culture in school all depend on shared evidence and on challenging idiosyncratic practice. It means moving away from every teacher having their own approach towards the common use of practices agreed by the profession as effective, making teaching not just an art but also a science. That is what this book is about."
— Andreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills, OECD

"As education systems today strive to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom, they have become "data rich, but information poor". This book is perfect to support teachers not only in collecting and using actionable data – but also in collaborating as teams to make sense of information, identify warning signs and intervene in time where it matters most."
Amina Afif, Head of Data Analysis & Evaluation Division, SCRIPT, Ministry of Education, Children and Youth, Luxembourg


Finding the best route towards school improvement has become an abstract and elusive target for educators and policymakers worldwide. No two school systems are alike—the differences in context are just too great. These differences are magnified even further when looking at each individual school with its unique group of students and teachers. Finding a blanket approach to school improvement is nigh impossible.

Fortunately, however, patterns in school improvement can be identified, showing that school systems that succeed in achieving excellence have at least two common traits (Mourshed et al. 2010):

  1. A school improvement process guided by evidence: understanding the situation at every level – from the entire education system to each student – is vital for choosing the best policy interventions and successfully implementing them.
  2. Schools in charge of their own improvement: increasing schools’ autonomy, making them fully responsible for creating the right learning conditions, and supporting them with the tools and expertise necessary for the job.

Evidence-based school improvement

This book aims to guide policymakers and school leaders in school-led, evidence-based improvement by providing a set of tools for gathering the right data, making evidence actionable, and establishing a culture of collaborative inquiry.

Working towards school improvement requires a firm understanding of the current status and the most beneficial next steps, and both of these require the right data.

Most education systems and schools already have a strong process of collecting academic evidence – standardised exam results and PISA scores are a global reference of education quality. But these focus only on the outcomes of education, rather than what the best schools are doing differently. To improve the processes where they truly matter – in the classroom – we need to shift the focus from outcomes through a systematic analysis of non-academic data (Scheerens 2016).

Any evidence-driven initiative needs to have a clear plan to make the evidence actionable. A lot of effort is wasted in education systems worldwide collecting data without translating that data into school improvement (Michael and Susan Dell Foundation 2013). Data that gathers metaphorical dust in a folder (or real dust, if there is a hard copy) does not contribute to better education. Setting clear goals with future action in mind from the very beginning is the best way to guarantee the effort is fruitful – and that requires a strong emphasis on the processes of school improvement.

Finally, allowing schools to lead their own improvement requires a culture of collaborative inquiry.

Teachers, school leaders, and education policymakers must align their work so that everyone is moving in the same direction, guided by a collective curiosity and desire for improvement. This not only means that everyone can make informed decisions, but also helps us avoid getting stuck in bad habits by bringing in a new perspective. It also ensures that every stakeholder feels accountable and is motivated to implement improvements in their own work.

Find the full ebook version at edurio.com/schoolimprovement

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