Using Data Trends to 80/20 Our 80/20

Dr. Catherine Burns

By Dr. Catherine Burns, Chief Academic Officer

With many of our leaders now back from a much-deserved break, I want to share our mid-year data summary as a point of inspiration. 

Successes to celebrate are clear; there is no way educators are working this hard without positive outcomes—some of which can be measured in academic progress.

We generally discuss the mid-year data with individual leaders, and our advisors work diligently with teams to strategize response plans. Because there has not been any meaningful comparative data over the past two years, though, leaders might benefit from hearing about how peers are doing and considering how your school is measuring up to national trends. 

This is by no means competitive, but an attempt to level set, see the successes, and gain situational awareness of how schools like yours are doing—are they surviving or thriving? We see a bit of both in the academic outcomes. 

There are also clear areas of focus, but with data in your hands you have the power to talk about where your students are and create a strategic response plan to address the needs—a plan that is hyper-focused, the 80/20 of the 80/20, on strategies evidenced as effective.

We have been gathering a variety of evidence this year, which includes Accelerate Framework and Transformational Leadership Building Block evidence, survey data in the form of our assessment staff surveys and the 5Essentials, strategic plan big rock and key result outcomes, and additional data such as culture metrics, leader practice, and classroom observations.

Not only that, we’ve also been able to add an additional level of complexity to the analysis with the help of academic data being used by teachers to guide instruction.

It is important to note that there are some schools that did not measure student academic progress at the mid-year, so there are some gaps. Nevertheless, we now have academic data to pair with the leading indicator data we’ve been looking at to analyze what is and is not working.

A study of national data from McKinsey & Company shows that students continue to fall further behind in reading and math, and on average, students are not obtaining a year’s worth of expected progress during the school year. Unfinished teaching and learning through the pandemic have left students an average of five months behind in math and four months behind in reading. 

When this data was disaggregated for race, income, and location, the students you serve were slipping further behind than other student groups. Meaning: growth for students nationally has been less than one year and even less for the students we support, demonstrating the pandemic has exacerbated historical inequities.

There are a few other trends of note. In the beginning of the pandemic, math learning struggled more than reading. In the time since the initial pandemic impact, though, math learning has performed better than reading learning. 

Overall, more students started this school year two or more grade levels behind as compared to pre-pandemic levels—and those rates are higher for lower-income and predominantly Black or Latino schools. Second- and third-graders fell the furthest behind in reading, with an additional 7-9% two or more grade levels behind and missing critical early reading skills. Second- through sixth-graders fell the furthest behind in math, with an additional 10% two or more grade levels behind.

Armed with this information, our team looked for POSITIVE shifts across achievement bands, positive growth, and at least 50% of students growing to indicate schoolwide growth (which bucks the national data trends and should be celebrated!). We also looked for patterns that could inform leader focus. We triangulated the academic data with practice and identified strategies that leaders have been using to accelerate academics.

Sixty-two percent of schools demonstrated POSITIVE shifts across achievement bands, positive growth, and at least 50% of students growing in reading or math.

Join me in celebrating these schools and leaders!  

Tyson Daniel


CICS Lloyd Bond

Maria Freeman


CICS Loomis-Longwood 9-12

Anita Hernandez

Anita Hernandez


Schubert Elementary

Amy Hopkins


LEARN 10 North Chicago

Liz Jamison-Dunn


Catalyst Circle Rock

Aneesa Sergeant


UChicago Charter School – NKO

Jasmine Thurmond


King Academy of Social Justice

Vicki Tsirtsis

Vicki Tsirtsis


Acero – Fuentes

Some of the celebrations include:
  • Shifted students out of the 30th percentile/below level; increasing the number of students in approaching/on-level!
  • Increased percentage of students in the meets/exceeds level!
  • Decreased the number of students two or more grade levels behind in math and increasing the number of students on grade level!
  • Students in elementary showed growth on reading assessments such as STEP, with some of the greatest growth in the school at the kindergarten level!
Overarching Trends
  • Schools typically made more progress in math than in reading.
  • Early grades struggled more with growth aligned to the national trends.
  • Some schools declined or stagnated, even at the lowest levels of achievement where we normally see the most growth.
  • In some cases where we see schoolwide struggles with student growth, we see some “bright spot” classrooms or grades that can be leveraged.
Successful Strategies
  • Strong systems for looking at data and planning targeted interventions.
  • Schoolwide buy-in to the necessity of data-driven instruction more than ever.
  • Consistent use of the SCOREBOARD each month.
  • Leadership teams provided time, support, and accountability with academic data entry.
  • DATA consistently present in ALL meetings and effective response plans were created.
  • Curriculum was followed with fidelity, providing rigorous content daily and not Teachers Pay Teachers type of material. This is most evident in math outcomes.
  • Leveraged education technology platforms to target skills and monitor progress.
  • Teachers had a line of sight into successful teachers’ practices and professional development and coaching supported these practices.

Consider your school data and use this information to help you 80/20 your 80/20 focus during the last eight-to-10 weeks left with students.

  • Share this summary with your manager, leadership team, and teachers alongside your current academic data.
  • Did your school fall in line with these trends or outside? Celebrate the wins you have accomplished!
  • How many of the successful strategies were you using consistently?
  • Does your current strategic plan incorporate the successful strategies?
  • How many strategies will you be able to check off at the end of the year?

Our program support will be hyper-focused on these strategies for the remainder of the year and as we head into Annual Strategic Planning.

We are in this together.

We are so proud of the work that is being done, even if we are not there YET with all students. We know how hard you all are working for your communities.

Continue to interrupt, reimagine, and reconnect.

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Interested in helping your school achieve accelerated results? Check out our Leadership Academy and Leadership Academy Plus programs.