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Schools, districts, and states collect lots of data. In fact, school districts today are gathering more information about students, teachers, and schools than ever before. New layers of education policy demand accountability for results in varying ways. But how often is that data accessed and analyzed in order to support breakthrough decisions? How often does data inform fundamental policy shifts, strategic management decisions, or curriculum changes? Unfortunately, not often enough. The Strategic Data Project (SDP) intends to change this.


Transforming the use of data in education to improve student achievement.

The second major strategy of SDP is to conduct what we call diagnostic analyses using agency data in two core areas: (1) human capital (primarily focusing on teacher effectiveness) and (2) college-going success and attainment for students. These two focus areas were selected precisely because of the leverage they offer. Research consistently shows that the effectiveness of a students teacher has the most impact on that students opportunity to improve; getting a student to successful high school graduation (and beyond) dramatically shapes the opportunities for that students future. The diagnostics are a set of analyses that frame actionable questions for education leaders. For example: How successfully are they recruiting effective teachers? How long do teachers stay? Where do they teach in the system? How well do our students stay on-track for high school graduation? How well do students transition to postsecondary education? We developed these analyses after closely examining the data available in many districts and states and working with education leaders to understand their core questions. These analyses are literally diagnostic in nature. That is, they generate findings, but do not provide information about the causes of those findings. So, just as when a physician observes that a patients blood pressure or cholesterol is high, the measure itself does not explain the cause. What typically ensues is a conversation between the patient and the doctorand, likely, more analysis which leads to an understanding of possible root causes and behavior or lifestyle changes that could help address the diagnosis. There are four major goals for the diagnostics: 1. Convey actionable and salient information about teacher effectiveness and postsecondary transitions to our partners. 2. Build a body of work that relays the findings of similar analyses across a growing number of agencies, allowing for comparison and identification of best practices. 3. Demonstrate to agencies what can be done with the increasing amount of data they are collecting (primarily for compliance purposes, but which also can be used to deeply understand performance). 4. Develop an industry-standard set of metrics that becomes need-to-know information about any education agency, not unlike the price-to-earnings ratio for a publicly traded companies.

Since 2008, SDP has partnered with school districts, charter school networks, and state education agencies to bring high quality research methods and data analysis to bear on strategic management and policy decisions. Housed at the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University, SDP was formed on two fundamental premises: (1) policy and management decisions can directly influence schools and teachers ability to improve student achievement; and (2) valid and reliable data analysis significantly improves the quality of decision making. Our theory of action is that if we bring together the right people, assemble the right data, and perform the right analysis, we can improve the decisions that leaders make such that student achievement improves significantly. To fulfill this model, SDP pursues three major strategies: 1) placing top-notch analytic leaders as Fellows for two years with our partners (e.g. school district, charter school network, or state education agency); 2) conducting rigorous diagnostic analysis of teacher effectiveness and college-going success using agency data; and 3) disseminating our tools, methods, and lessons learned to many more education agencies. The findings that emerge from our diagnostic work will generate a growing demand for reliable research and data analysis, fundamentally altering the way decisions are made in public education.



GreatSchools The Colorado Legacy Foundation San Jose The College-Ready Promise Denver

Springfield Boston Achievement First New York Massachusetts New Visions for Public Schools Providence ROADS/Centerbridge Foundation Teach For America Philadelphia Elizabeth Pittsburgh Cleveland New Jersey Ohio Delaware Howard County Baltimore County Prince Georges County District of Columbia Memphis Kentucky Wake County Charlotte-Mecklenburg

Los Angeles Albuquerque Dallas Fort Worth


Gwinnett Fulton


Pilot Cohort 1 Cohort 2 Cohort 3 Cohort 4

The SDP Fellowship is a two-year, full-time program that places and develops talented analytic leaders in partner agencies where they can have an immediate impact on policy decisions that affect student outcomes. Fellows are highly skilled quantitative analysts with an entrepreneurial passion for using data to drive decision making. The program is comprised of two kinds of fellows Data Fellows and Agency Fellows. Data Fellows are recruited by SDP via a nationwide search and matched to an SDP partner agency where they serve as full-time, paid, agency employees. Fellows report to senior managers, ensuring access to key decision makers and strategic planning work. Agency Fellows are current partner agency employees who are competitively selected by SDP and their agency to participate in the Fellows Program for the same two-year period. Together, Data Fellows and Agency Fellows form a core analytic team within a partner agency. THE WORK OF SDP FELLOWS The ultimate goal of SDP and of Fellows work is to facilitate culture change, elevating each agency to one that consistently uses data analysis to improve decision making, practices, and outcomes. Fellows provide senior level leadership with the capacity to leverage data in new ways by collecting and analyzing existing agency data to inform specific policy decisions.

During their two-year tenure, Data Fellows work on one or two focus issues in great depth, helping the partner agency break through a strategic issue that benefits fromand may fundamentally depend onrobust and advanced analysis, with particular emphasis in human capital strategies and college-going success. Fellows are expected to (1) comprehensively study their focus issues using rigorous data analysis; (2) become an expert in their topic areas; and (3) significantly contribute to their agencys policy-making, leadership, and strategic development. Fellows also provide much needed analytical talent and support to other projects. SDP FELLOW PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT & SUPPORT All Fellows receive a rich complement of professional development and support designed to boost skills and knowledge in three key areas: (1) measurement and analysis, (2) leadership and change management, and (3) education policy. Support for Fellows includes: Workshops: Fellows attend workshops across the country delivered by SDP staff and experts. Workshops are structured around themes in education policy, and support Fellows development in measurement and analysis, as well as leadership and change management. Policy and research themes we explore include teacher effectiveness, value-added models, compensation, college-going success, and how data can drive operational decisions more successfully. Faculty Advisors: SDP assigns a Faculty Advisor to each team of Fellows. Faculty Advisors serve as intellectual coaches in reviewing work product and analytical approaches, as well as managerial coaches when Fellows meet organizational obstacles. Professional development stipends: All Fellows establish annual goals and select individual professional development programming that is aligned with those goals. Access to a virtual network: SDP hosts biweekly conference calls, e-mail list-servs, and an intranet to help Fellows connect with one another, ask questions, and share information. Most importantly, Fellows become part of a growing national network of analytic leaders and researchers making an impact in education reform through research and data.

For more information about the Strategic Data Project, visit our website at