data driven decision making

Leading Through Disruption: Leveraging Data for Informed Decision-Making

In today’s rapidly changing educational landscape, district and school leaders face numerous challenges that can disrupt progress and hinder student success. However, amidst these challenges, there are shining examples of leaders who have not only navigated disruption but have also driven continuous improvement within their educational communities. Recently, at the Carnegie Summit, Blake Frazier from Jefferson County Schools, Alabama, and Jennifer Francone from Porterville Unified School District, California, shared how their districts successfully managed disruption, removed barriers, and celebrated small wins by prioritizing people, using data effectively, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement aligned with community needs and goals. These strategies can serve as valuable insights for other education leaders facing similar challenges in their improvement journeys.

We started with our employees to create that culture of support, which ultimately is going to lead to improvement for our students and families those that we serve.
Dr. Jennifer Francone, Director of Continuous Improvement at Porterville Unified School District

District and School Leaders Seeing the System: Facing Rapid Change with Relentless Focus

This Carnegie Summit poster session features leaders discussing how they maintain focus on district priorities during disruptions, ensuring that students’ highest needs are met. Through hardwiring improvement efforts and implementing “always actions,” these leaders have become better equipped to manage disruptions and remove barriers, regardless of their phase in the continuous improvement journey. They emphasize the significance of celebrating small wins and implementing simple actions to achieve their goals.

During their poster session, Blake Frazier and Dr. Jennifer Francone shared their insights and strategies for maintaining focus, removing barriers, and celebrating small wins on the path toward sustained improvement.

Blake Frazier, Assistant Director of Federal Programs at Jefferson County Schools in Alabama, highlighted the importance of understanding the individuals behind the data. By focusing on “knowing the faces behind the numbers,” Jefferson County leaders at Erwin Middle School personalized interventions and tracked progress using tools like the Student Success Scorecard and stoplight reports. These strategies allowed Erwin Middle School to achieve remarkable reductions in chronic absenteeism and demonstrate positive growth across student metrics.

Jefferson County Schools (Erwin Middle School) Strategies

  • Knowing the Faces Behind the Numbers: Instead of viewing data as abstract percentages, focus on understanding the individual students behind the data. By knowing their needs and stories, targeted interventions can be provided.
  • Using Tools for Focus: Implement tools like the Student Success Scorecard to track student progress and identify areas needing attention. A stoplight report (red, green, yellow) helps ensure accountability and keeps efforts on track.
  • Making Data Visible: Displaying data prominently and in a simple format engages stakeholders (staff, students) and promotes discussion and goal-setting. For example, Erwin Middle School used visible data to achieve significant reductions in chronic absenteeism.

In parallel, Dr. Jennifer Francone, Director of Continuous Improvement at Porterville Unified School District in California, emphasized the critical role of relentless focus on people. Jennifer’s district engaged their entire community in developing a strategic plan centered on employee support and engagement. Transparent communication of survey results and the implementation of process maps fostered trust and accountability, resulting in notable improvements in employee participation and overall experience.

Porterville Unified School District Strategies

  • Relentless Focus on People: Rather than chasing every issue, Porterville Unified School District prioritized employee support and engagement to foster a culture of improvement.
  • Developing a Strategic Plan: Involve the entire community, including employees, students, families, and external partners, in developing a comprehensive strategic plan aligned with the community’s needs and vision.
  • Implementing Scorecards: Use scorecards to track progress towards goals, starting with employee experience. This provides clear measures and accountability for improvement efforts.
  • Building Trust and Engagement: Increase participation and trust through transparent communication of survey results and actions taken based on feedback. This approach led to significant improvements in employee engagement and participation rates.
  • Using Process Maps: Clarify roles and processes using tools like process maps to ensure everyone understands their responsibilities and the steps involved in key organizational processes.

Both Blake and Jennifer underscored the significance of data-driven decision-making, community engagement, and cultivating a culture of continuous improvement. By celebrating small wins and staying committed to their priorities, Jefferson County and Porterville district leaders exemplify effective leadership in managing disruption and propelling sustained progress in their districts.

As leaders navigate the complexities of today’s educational environment, the experiences shared by Jefferson County Schools and Porterville Unified School District serve as inspiring roadmaps. By prioritizing people, leveraging data effectively, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, these leaders have demonstrated tangible outcomes that positively impact student success and overall organizational effectiveness.


Think differently.

Shift from seeing data as numbers to understanding the individuals they represent, allowing for personalized interventions that address unique student, employee, or community needs and foster meaningful progress.

Plan differently.

Engage the entire community in strategic planning to ensure alignment with community needs and aspirations, laying the foundation for effective implementation and sustained progress.

Act differently.

Emphasize transparency, accountability, and proactive response to feedback by rolling out survey results, seeking additional input, and implementing targeted actions to improve experiences for all stakeholders.

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High performing teacher in our episode about managing resistance to changeA woman speaking with her colleagues to spark and sustain change, gathering input