Last week, I presented on a virtual panel as part of the Carnegie Foundation Improvement Science in Education Summit using UPD’s Data Life-Cycle Framework. During the session, we heard from participants that there is a black hole around the student experience right now, as districts switch to virtual learning environments. Folks are struggling to figure out what data they should collect that would enable their teams to continuously adjust to ensure as many students as possible are safe, healthy, and engaged in learning in these challenging times.

It is likely that many of you are working through these same questions. We invite you to use the UPD Data Life-Cycle framework (awareness – access – analysis – application) and the question prompts below as you engage your teams in ensuring effective data collection and use in support of your COVID-19 crisis-schooling efforts.


Does your team know and understand what data will be most relevant as well as possible to collect, and “the why” of each piece of data (the insights you expect it to provide)?

Pressure-test your assumptions about which data are possible to collect around distance learning or SEL supports for students and how well your collection plans line up with your priorities. Often less is more.


How well is your technical capacity set up to enable you to collect and store the data you need? Does your team have the skills and knowledge to collect the necessary data to ensure accuracy as well as protection of student privacy?

Don’t assume educators know or remember FERPA data privacy expectations or know how to apply them in the context of crisis distance learning. Communicate clear, simple, and concrete expectations for this.


Does your team have the analytic expertise to translate raw data into meaningful insights and to create compelling visualizations that all team members can understand?

Find the “data lovers” on your team and empower them to lead this work with and for their colleagues. Not all school administrators have the aptitude for this, so look for ways to leverage teachers as leaders.


What are the forums through which you are translating the information and insights you have been developing into powerful action?

Consider how you might consistently use formal data discussion protocols to anchor virtual management meetings with your team(s) to support powerful problem solving and to drive actions.

And a note on equity:

What gets measured gets done, so don’t forget to embed student subgroup disaggregation into your planning and action at each step of the data life-cycle.

You may not be able to answer all of these questions yet, but asking them should give you a good indication of where you should focus first and where you might need help.