Improving Success for All Students: A Toolkit for Using Data Effectively

Districts across Colorado are creating cultures that use data in new and better ways to improve outcomes for students. These districts are providing tools and supports to students, parents, and educators to interpret, analyze, and use data to identify gaps, solve problems, differentiate instruction, and target areas of improvement.


The Colorado Education Initiative (CEI) has gathered innovative practices from across the state and compiled them into a Data Use Toolkit, which profiles educators who are changing the way all stakeholders see data and leverage data for improvement.


This toolkit is a living resource; please contact us if you have a data resource, process, or tool to share.

Measures of Student Learning for Use in Educator Evaluations


How are districts increasing teachers’ assessment literacy?
Thompson School District engaged teachers in developing the district’s measures of student learning (MSL) system to increase teacher ownership of the process and build assessment literacy throughout the district. Teachers in each content area can choose assessments that best represent their grade and content, and/or develop assessments in areas where they don’t exist. Read the full profile of Thompson’s assessment creation process.


How are districts engaging teachers in the MSL process?
Durango School District and Bayfield School District convened teacher “think tanks” to help develop their MSL systems and make key decisions about the evaluation process. Read the full profile of the teacher think tank process.


How are districts and boards of cooperative educational services (BOCES) working together to establish MSLs?
San Luis Valley school districts collaborated to create MSLs by launching a professional learning community (PLC) where teachers from the district came together to work on common goals. The PLC structure served as a working group to begin developing the MSL system. Read the guiding questions that were used to facilitate the process.


External resources:

1.  Colorado Department of Education’s (CDE) Measures of Student Learning Guidance: A guide highlighting possible approaches for districts and BOCES to consider when selecting MSLs for use in educator evaluations.


2.  CDE’s Assessment Review Tool: A resource to help Colorado educators rate an assessment’s potential for measuring student academic growth aligned to the Colorado Academic Standards. Districts and BOCES can use this tool in discussions with teachers about the assessment measures used in their performance evaluations. The Assessment Review Tool thoroughly documents the rating for each assessment, building confidence and support for using the assessments in evaluations.


3.  Community Training and Assistance Center: More than 100 field-tested tools and instruments to make implementation of student learning objectives more effective and manageable.

Does CDE offer any resources to inform stakeholders about how CDE protects data privacy and to help schools and districts do the same?

What resources are available from the U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC)?

1  The PTAC toolkit: A body of best practice resources to help education stakeholders learn more about data privacy, confidentiality, and security procedures related to student-level longitudinal data systems. Resources are organized according to five main topics: data sharing and dissemination, legal references, security best practices, disclosure avoidance, and data governance.

2.  Training videos that inform the education community about FERPA requirements:

3.  Webinars on topics of data privacy and sharing:

External Resources

1.  The Data Quality Campaign:

2.  Privacy and Cloud Computing in Public Schools.

  • An examination of how school districts address privacy when they transfer student information to cloud computing service providers. The goals of the study are to provide a national picture of cloud computing in public schools, to assess how public schools address their statutory obligations as well as generally accepted privacy principles in their cloud service agreements, and to make recommendations based on the findings to improve the protection of student privacy in the context of cloud computing.

How are teachers using Colorado’s Student Perception Survey (SPS) to change practice?

1.  Teachers across the state are using SPS results to inform their practice in multiple ways. Read these interviews from Colorado teachers on how they are using results.

2.  Thompson School District has created a resource for teachers to self-assess on the SPS and to compare their results to students’. See the full self-assessment tool for grades 3-5 and 6-12.

How are principals and districts using SPS data to facilitate meaningful conversations and identify growth areas for teachers and students?

1.  Thompson School District and Bayfield School District found innovative ways to incorporate survey results into the evaluation system while still maintaining teacher control over their individual results. Read the full profile of these districts.

2.  Student surveys are a new way of gathering feedback from teachers, and results can be emotionally charged. Some districts use school wide discussions of aggregate school and district results to build context and comfort for teachers before they look at their individual results. Read the full profile of this process.

3.  Dolores School District used SPS data with students to explore their school culture and create student-driven plans to improve it. See the video and suite of resources to facilitate this process in your school or district.

4.  CEI has created specific toolkits for teachers, coaches, administrators, and district staff to implement the SPS and engage thoughtfully with results. See the full survey toolkits for more information.

How are principals using Colorado’s Teacher Perception Survey (TPS) to improve their instructional leadership?

Thompson School District has created a resource for principals to self-assess on the TPS and to compare their results to teachers’. See the full self-assessment tool.

CEI Resource:

See the full Teacher Perception Survey toolkit for more information.

External resource:

Evaluating Evaluations: Using Teacher Surveys to Strengthen Implementation. Engaging teachers in the implementation of their evaluation system by eliciting their feedback on the status (including pros and cons) of that implementation. If the goal of the system is to identify and address teachers’ areas of strength and growth, teachers should be asked if the system is achieving this objective for them.

How are teachers and principals encouraging students to own their data and track their individual goals?

In Silverton School, all students complete a portfolio of their work throughout the year to track progress toward standards and provide additional evidence of student learning. They take true ownership over their learning by choosing high-quality pieces of work that reflect key areas of learning. Students also create a character section where they reflect on their character development throughout the year.


How are students using data to change school culture or policy?

Dolores School District has used SPS data with students to explore their school culture and create student-driven plans to improve it. See the video and suite of resources to facilitate this process in your school or district.

How are teachers using data to inform their instruction?

Denver Public Schools’ Data Culture Toolkit: An overview of Denver Public Schools’ (DPS) data inquiry cycle and resources for schools to implement data-driven instruction.


External resources:

1.  The Strategic Data Project’s Toolkit for Effective Data Use: A resource guide for education agency analysts who collect and analyze student achievement data. The human capital edition gives insight into teacher recruitment, placement, evaluation, development, and retention. The college-going edition provides analytics for on-time graduation trends, postsecondary enrollment, and persistence.

2.  No Schools Left Behind: A primer for schools attempting to analyze the data they collect. Schools can get a better picture of how to improve learning for all students by gathering, intersecting, and organizing different categories of data more effectively. This article describes the four kinds of data that are most important to continuous school improvement and how to organize them.

3.  New Directions in Assessment Online Story Package: An examination of new developments and trends in the practice of testing and assessment in schools. The stories focus on initiatives designed to link assessment more closely with classroom learning and instruction, and thus provide integral solutions for teachers.

4.  Using Think-Aloud Interviews to Improve Student Assessments: A 2006 National Center on Educational Outcomes study found that think-aloud interviews—interviews in which students are asked to think aloud as they respond to assessment items—can help inform the design and refinement of large-scale student assessments. While think-aloud interviews can provide useful information about how students generally interpret and process items, the study focused on how think-alouds can be used to make assessments more accessible for a diverse population of students. Districts and schools interested in conducting think-alouds should reference Cognitive Interviewing: A “How To” Guide, a resource that provides think-aloud interview techniques created by Gordon Willis at the Research Triangle Institute.

How are districts ensuring Teacher Student Data Link (TSDL) fidelity?

A description of the DPS data requirements and business rules used to create the TSDL for reporting purposes.

CDE Resource:

Teacher Student Data Link Fact Sheet

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