Overview of SDCs
What is a Strategic Data Check-in (SDC)?
Strategic Data Check-ins (SDCs) are protocol-driven conversations that take place at defined moments and focus on using data to support critical decision-making and tasks. SDCs help schools create a framework for making decisions, and then allow team members to take and record actions at the student and school level.
- Grounded in data
- Clear objectives
- Drives decision-making
- Takes action within a specified time period
- Includes transparent documentation accessible to all participants
- Happens in a routinized way
- Part of a larger, overall vision of the team’s work
School staff must constantly make decisions that have an enormous impact on whether individual students remain on-track for graduation and/or to advance to the next grade level. The lack of common technical and human systems to ensure that these decisions are made reliably, comprehensively, and in a timely manner are barriers to improving student achievement at scale. In the past five years, New Visions has systematically focused on tackling those barriers. We are addressing the technical challenges by building the Data Portal to ensure decision-makers have access to critical information when they need it. We are supporting the human systems challenges through the implementation of Strategic Data Check-ins (SDCs). SDCs focus attention on a limited set of high-leverage decisions and follow a consistent routine for managing decision-making to build capacity to make consistent and reliable high-stakes decisions, such as ensuring that students are enrolled in the courses/supports they need to remain on track.
We have designed Strategic Data Check-ins, and the accompanying data tools that support them, to achieve three overarching goals:
- Improve decision-making in the near-term: SDCs help schools define common schoolwide expectations and guidelines, tightly manage processes during short time windows when decisions are required, and monitor decisions made by multiple different people to ensure they balance common expectations with students’ individual circumstances. Many schools see improvement in key outcomes like graduation rates and college readiness rates quickly, reinforcing the message that change is possible.
- Build school capacity in the medium-term: The decisions that SDCs focus on recur multiple times each year in schools. By following a consistent routine, SDCs nurture data-driven inquiry skills and build the technical and human systems necessary for schools to implement, then adapt and own, these decision-making processes. This happens while school users are completing authentic work, rather than in contexts disconnected from the daily work of schools.
- Change system-wide conditions in the long-term: SDCs create common ways of working, explicit expectations, and standardized data across schools, each of which is a critical condition for collaboration and improvement. School teams can monitor and continuously improve their own decisions and outcomes and collaborate more effectively with peers, while district leaders can look across multiple schools to identify and learn from patterns of decision-making and improvement. This information will form an increasingly-rich practical knowledge base for supporting on-time graduation in New York City, with underlying evidence of impact.
Ultimately, SDCs are an improvement approach that helps schools routinize standard work so that it can be executed efficiently yet reliably and comprehensively, allowing schools to pay increasing attention to the activities that require expert knowledge, nuanced decision making, and challenging social interactions.