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8 Steps to Improving Education

Jo Beth Jimerson Ph.D.
Jo Beth Jimerson,  Ph.D.

Kim Schildkamp, an associate professor at University of Twente in The Netherlands, is helping European schools translate data into educational improvement. TCU associate professor Jo Beth Jimerson is piloting the program in the United States, with the help of a grant from the Spencer Foundation.

Jimerson, a former teacher and principal, says schools sometimes have a bias to action, given the pressures of accountability, which can lead to solutions that are ill-matched to actual root causes of problems. She describes Schildkamp’s method as a structured scientific method for teachers and administrators to talk about issues in their schools.

“Teachers are very used to focusing on academic outcomes like test results,” Jimerson said. “But many factors, like attendance and student motivation can also affect those outcomes.”

The process teaches small teams of teachers and administrators (data teams) how to use data to solve problems in their school. The team meets regularly and follows an eight-step process to solve a locally-identified problem of practice:

Eight Step Process

  • Step 1: Define a problem
  • Step 2: Formulate hypotheses
  • Step 3: Collect data
  • Step 4: Data quality check
  • Step 5: Data analysis
  • Step 6: Interpretation and conclusions
  • Step 7: Implement Improvement Measures
  • Step 8: Evaluation

During the study, Jimerson will have mid-year and end-of-year interviews with members of the data team to assess their feelings on the project and their progress. Jimerson stressed the importance of support from school leadership, pointing to some school-based teams in Norway that were unsuccessful in addressing their agreed-upon problems due to inconsistent support from school leaders.

Data-Informed Practice

Jimerson has long researched data-informed decision making in education. She met Schildkamp through the Data-Driven Decision Making in Education group in the American Educational Research Association. She applied for the Spencer Foundation grant with Schildkamp and Vanessa Garry, assistant professor at the University of Missouri. Jimerson is working with an elementary school team in the north Texas area this year and recruiting a second campus for the 2018-19 school year. Garry plans to implement the study in Missouri schools.

“The goal is to develop a successful model that teachers and administrators can scale up to improve their schools,” Jimerson said.