Looking for the "so what?" in our data

If you’ve read this blog for any period of time, you’ve probably figured out that data tracking is kind of my thing. 

My super Type-A personality gets a lot of satisfaction from crossing every “t” and dotting every “i” and making sure that I can quickly access all of the data at my disposal in an organized, visually-appealing way. 

I started my business largely because I saw that many school-based staff struggled to get started with this process, and I knew I could help.  

But here’s the thing: no matter how beautiful and meticulous your data tracker is, it is still just the start — not the end — of your data journey.

I’ve had some great opportunities lately to talk about tracking family engagement data and help teams develop logic models for their work. 

[SHAMELESS PLUG: If you registered for the National Family and Community Engagement Conference that was held the first week of June, you can watch my session for 90 days!]

At these sessions and meetings, I’ve gotten to share my love of data and explain both the “how” and “why” of tracking it. 

"Let's Get Tracking" session information from IEL National Family and Community Engagement conference

However, I think I’ve been missing a piece in how I communicate these topics.

In a meeting yesterday with a client, it occurred to me that I need to be clearer with my audience about another key question: “so what?”

Yes, tracking your data is critically important to helping you understand which students and families your school or organization is reaching, how regularly they are engaging with the people and opportunities available to them, and where greater efforts may be needed. 

But this is not where you stop. 

Data tracking is just the first step towards understanding the “so what,” the impact of the work you’re doing on the people you serve.

You see, the client I was talking to yesterday is a data tracking machine!

I have never encountered an organization with so many data points tracked and calculated. Their efforts are really impressive. 

However, even with all of the data they have at their fingertips, they are still not able to answer the ultimate question: What impact are they having on their students, families, and community?

Like with them, I am going to try to help you answer the same question. (But one blog post isn’t enough room to do that!)

Summer is a great time to reflect on your data and prepare for the upcoming school year, so my next few posts will be geared towards helping you uncover the amazing impact I know you’re having on your kids and families. 

While you wait for some more content on data analysis and visualization, check out my past posts on using conditional formatting to highlight trends in your data or mapping data to find geographic patterns in your community. 

If you have ideas for topics you’d like me to cover, leave a comment below.

I’m excited for this summer of data exploration!