Data 2013: The People and Stories behind the Numbers held June 27th in Cincinnati was the Strive Network’s first step in creating a community of practice for data managers. Ann McCoy, our Director of Data Services and Research, represented All Kids Alliance at this national meeting. Over 40 network partnerships were represented at the convening. Participants were brought together to meet and make connections with other data managers, learn lessons from the experiences of others, define the role of the data manager, identify challenges, and discuss barriers to and resources for sharing education data.
The Strive Network used its newly drafted Theory of Action to introduce participants to its conceptualization of collective impact, appropriate terminology, and the model’s iterative nature. Presenters emphasized that data managers were important to promoting and maintaining a culture of continuous improvement because decisions made by partnerships should be data informed.
Data managers were encouraged to view continuous improvement as an on-going process which leads to improved outcomes. Participants were informed that improved outcomes obtained through continuous improvement result in part from asking questions—How can we get better? How can we do more?—and recognizing that our work is an on-going process because the disparities we identify can be diminished but not eradicated.
Strive presenters noted that the use of data in the continuous improvement process underscored the need for data managers to recognize that they always walk a fine line between data use being viewed as a mobilizing tool versus an instrument to derogate the work of educational institutions. It was suggested that the proper balance was struck when community report cards were presented as products of partnership tables. Community report cards should be viewed as reflections of current student performance on outcomes partnerships targeted for improvement.
Data managers from three Strive Network members—Strive Partnership (Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky), All Hands Raised (Portland, OR), and The Roadmap Project (South King County/South Seattle, WA)—shared information about their experiences and lessons learned. They emphasized the importance of building trusting relationships among partners. Such relationships were viewed as important to working together successfully, especially in drafting data sharing agreements and building comprehensive data systems.
This group also suggested that partnerships should have access to the services of attorneys with expertise in education law. One partnership reported that volunteers from partnering organizations offered their services, including some who built their comprehensive data system.
The Strive Network will continue to explore ways in which data managers throughout the network can maintain on-going connections as well as identify the professional development needs of individuals in these roles. As part of its September 2013 Convening in Dallas, Gateways to Quality: Raising the Bar of Collective Impact Together, the Strive Network will include sessions to address the needs and interests of data managers.