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Practice Guide Summaries: Using Student Achievement Data to Support Instructional Decision Making

The What Works Clearinghouse practice guides are designed to provide succinct recommendations that address challenges educators encounter in their classrooms and schools. The Lead for Literacy Center Practice Guide Summaries provide actionable evidence-based recommendations that are most relevant to literacy leaders in the elementary grades.


Make data part of an ongoing cycle of instructional improvement.

  1. Collect and prepare a variety of data about student learning.
  2. Interpret data and develop hypotheses about how to improve student learning.
  3. Modify instruction to test hypotheses and increase student learning.


Teach students to examine their own data and set learning goals.

  1. Explain expectations and assessment criteria.
  2. Provide feedback to students that is timely, specific, well formatted, and constructive.
  3. Provide tools that help students learn from feedback.
  4. Use students’ data analyses to guide instructional changes.


Establish a clear vision for schoolwide data use.

  1. Establish a schoolwide data team that sets the tone for ongoing data use.
  2. Define critical teaching and learning concepts.
  3. Develop a written plan that articulates activities, roles, and responsibilities.
  4. Provide ongoing data leadership.


Provide supports that foster a data-driven culture within the school.

  1. Designate a school-based facilitator who meets with teacher teams to discuss data.
  2. Dedicate structured time for staff collaboration.
  3. Provide targeted professional development regularly.


Develop and maintain a districtwide data system.

  1. Involve a variety of stakeholders in selecting a data system.
  2. Clearly articulate system requirements relative to user needs.
  3. Determine whether to build or buy the data system.
  4. Plan and stage the implementation of the data system.

This is an abbreviated digest of the Practice Guide cited below. It was created for instructional leaders and supervisors who are responsible for ensuring quality literacy programming but not responsible for implementing the evidence-based practices (EBP). It is designed for awareness only. Access the Practice Guide for full understanding and implementation of the EBP.
Adapted From: Foorman, B., Beyler, N., Borradaile, K., Coyne, M., Denton, C. A., Dimino, J., Furgeson, J., Hayes, L., Henke, J., Justice, L., Keating, B., Lewis, W., Sattar, S., Streke, A., Wagner, R., & Wissel, S. (2016). Foundational skills to support reading for understanding in kindergarten through 3rd grade (NCEE 2016-4008). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from the NCEE website: