Practice-Driven Data: Lessons from Chicago's Approach to Research, Data, and Practice in Education

The Network for College Success, the UChicago Consortium on School Research, and the To&Through Project use a practice-driven data approach when working with educators in the Chicago Public Schools. This paper is designed to share the lessons we have learned about how, when, why, and under what conditions we have seen the use of data support real, sustainable, and remarkable improvement in the outcomes of Chicago’s youth. Our work as partners to the school district has implications for advocates, policymakers, district and school leaders, and school support organizations, both locally and nationally, who wish to take the approach to data that we have seen work so well in Chicago.

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In the past decade or so, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has seen tremendous improvement on the most important indicators for student success. Overall, between 2006 and 2017, the district has seen a 28 percentage-point rise in the proportion of freshman on-track to graduate, with the greatest increases occurring among Black and Latino males. High school graduation rates have increased by 18 percentage points, with ACT scores improving at the same time.

There is an important story to be told about the role that data played—and continues to play—in these kinds of improvements. This paper is designed to share the lessons we have learned about how, when, why, and under what conditions we have seen this practice-driven data approach support real and sustainable improvement. The paper is our attempt to share these lessons with advocates, policymakers, district and school leaders, and school support organizations, both locally and nationally, so they can develop the conditions that will support effective data use in schools and school systems.

Explore the Five Lessons of Practice-Driven Data >