The United States: Do district data use practices have an impact on schools?

Karen R. SEASHORE, Moo Sung LEE

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


There is, currently, considerable debate over how district policies and practices affect schools. Some argue that there is little evidence that district educational authorities have an impact on schools (Tymms et al., 2008), while others claim more. Much of the latter work is qualitative, and examines the way in which educational authority/district coaching and development programs that serve teachers affect instruction (Coburn & Talbert, 2006; Stein & Coburn, 2008). With respect to data use, investigations of district support for data use are limited in scope (Ingram, Louis, & Schroeder, 2004). This paper examines the relationship between district leadership around data use and teachers’ assessments of their work environments. Three research questions will be addressed: (1) How do principals and teachers describe the expectations for data use that are sent from the district? (2) How are district expectations for data use related to other actions to create a “leadership learning community,” particularly the provision of professional development and opportunities for school leaders to work together, and (3) Do district policies have an effect on how teachers work together and how they view the instructional leadership of their principals? The paper is based on a sample of 165 schools located in 9 states in the United States. Teachers and principals were asked to fill out paper and pencil surveys in 2008. Data about the school’s student demographic characteristics and achievement levels were obtained from public data sources. Scales were developed from the survey to measure the following: (Principal Survey) Principal’s Collective Sense of Efficacy, District Focus on Professional Development, District Use of Targets and Data, and (Teacher Survey) Professional Community and Principal Instructional Leadership Behavior. The demographic control variables used include Average Math Achievement over 3 years, student poverty levels, and school type (elementary/secondary). Data analysis includes descriptive correlations, regressions, and structural equation modeling. Results suggest that there are strong associations between principal’s perceptions of district policies related to data targets and data use, and collective sense of efficacy and district professional development policies. These three variables account for 23% of the variance in teachers’ reports of professional community in their work, and 28% in principal’s leadership behavior. Adding school demographic variables substantially increase the variance explained but does not reduce the strong positive effects of data targets and use.


Conference2011 Annual Meeting of American Educational Research Association: “Inciting the Social Imagination: Education Research for the Public Good”
Abbreviated titleAERA 2011
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans
Internet address


Seashore, K. R., & Lee, M. (2011, April). The United States: Do district data use practices have an impact on schools? Paper presented at the (American Educational Research Association) AERA 2011 Annual Meeting: Inciting the social imagination: Education research for the public good, New Orleans Marriott, New Orleans, Louisiana.


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