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Understanding K12 Data

Earlier in this module there was a discussion about the difference between baseline data, process data, interim results, and outcome data. Sometimes people who work with data call the interim results and outcome data “leading” and “lagging metrics.”

Leading metrics are monitored much more often, quarterly, monthly, weekly, or even daily to measure progress. Lagging metrics are the data that are measured on a long-term basis, usually annually or even on a 3-5 year time-frame.  

Along with understanding the difference between lagging and leading metrics, it is also helpful to understand the difference between quantitative and qualitative data.

  • Quantitative data is anything that can be measured with a number such as the graduation rate or percent of people who feel their school is safe. 
  • Qualitative data can’t be counted or calculated, instead it is subjective information such as an observation or written review.  With qualitative data, rather than conducting calculations, the data might be organized into themes based on their similarities.

Quantitative Data

Numbers usually shown as a count or percent that can be summarized with averages or through charts and graphs

Qualitative Data

Personal stories, open-ended survey responses, observations you make, and/or document analysis that can’t be summarized numerically

It is important to be systematic in collecting and organizing data.  Consider trying to do a program evaluation without having the baseline or process data.  It is very difficult to conduct an evaluation at the end of a program if no one collected data on which students participated, what their attendance was, what curriculum was used, how the curriculum was taught, etc. Qualitative data such as observations, walkthroughs, and interviews are useful forms of baseline and process data because they can help you understand how the program was implemented or what teachers and students thought and felt about the program.

It is also important to keep data organized with spreadsheets or databases.  Although there are professional database experts, basic data analysis can be completed with paper/pencil or spreadsheet applications on a personal computer by parents, teachers, and others.

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