Who, Where, What, and Why? Data Management in K–12 Schools

Name, address, phone number, email, medical records, financial information. Data is everywhere—in every filing cabinet and software system—making it more critical than ever for schools and nonprofits to manage it properly and use that data to make more informed decisions. How are you collecting, storing, and accessing that data? Do you have the right tools? Do you have the support to use it effectively? Are you asking the right questions?

To ensure your data is accurate, accessible, and secure, you need a school- or organization-wide data management program with four simple and essential goals:

  1. Ask the right questions
  2. Identify, clean, and organize the data
  3. Manage data access
  4. Document data policies

At my school, two resources inspired our approach to data and data visualization: Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why and Warren Berger’s book A More Beautiful Question. We begin each data dive by asking “Why” and then ensure we ask the right questions to guide us down the right path. One of the principles of A More Beautiful Question is to continue to question your questions until you get to the more beautiful question for the problem you are trying to solve.

“A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.” – Warren Berger

When starting our data program, we began with these questions:

  • Why are we collecting data?
  • What data does our school need?
  • Where is it stored?
  • Who should have access to that information?
  • How can it be used for strategic decision-making?

We also discussed how to incorporate existing and third-party tools to help with data management and problem-solving. The Student Information System, accounting system, and fundraising CRM all contain critical data points. We chose a total school solution in which they are fully integrated, empowering us with consistent data across school offices.

When determining who should have access and to what information, we started by defining roles within the school. Each had different use cases, and we created role-based access so everyone could get the data and reporting they needed without compromising data security.

A data management process should be simple to follow and easy to communicate. It involves working collaboratively with the department or person(s) requesting the data and ensuring the reports they receive accomplish set goals.

There are many areas in which data can help influence our decision-making, from supporting academic initiatives that drive student outcomes to budget allocation and donor engagement strategies. It is essential to prioritize those connected to your strategic plan and the school or organization’s mission and philosophy.

If you want to delve deeper into data management, join me and thousands of school and nonprofit leaders at bbcon in Denver October 22–24!  These are some data management sessions that you don’t want to miss:

Who, What, Where, and Why? Data Management in Your School

Tracy Dodge, Gonzaga College High School; John Neiers, The Dalton School

Data is everywhere, and it’s more important than ever to manage and use it properly. Learn how to examine why your school collects certain user data, where it is stored, who should have access to that information, and how it can be used for strategic decision-making.

We will explore starting a school-wide data management program by asking the right questions, identifying, cleaning, and organizing data, managing data access, and documenting data policies. We’ll also discuss how to incorporate existing and 3rd party tools to help with data management and problem-solving.

Write it. Map it. Match it.

Scott Blair and Tracy Dodge, Gonzaga College High School

Does your school have business rules recorded only in institutional memory? Are there procedures understood by select administrators but absent from the school handbook? Do you use multiple software solutions without a true understanding of how they interact? Are your records scattered across various databases not connected by a common ID? If you answered yes to any of these questions, attend this session to hear how documenting procedures can improve transparency, communication, and transition.

Why You Should Have a Data Committee

Nancy Kierstead, Severn School; Tom Mach and Timothy Strunk, Archbishop Spalding High School

Are you looking to streamline your data policies while improving data-driven decision-making? Join us for a panel discussion focused on creating, implementing, and sustaining a Data Committee at your school. This discussion will feature insights from schools that have successfully navigated this process, providing valuable guidance and strategies for optimizing data management and putting an end to your data woes.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to connect with your K–12 peers and reenergize your school’s culture, technology, and practices. Register for bbcon now!

We look forward to seeing you in Denver!