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Why Use Data for Advocacy

Leveraging Data for Systemic Change


Stakeholders advocate for varying reasons; however, the purpose of advocacy should be anchored in an equitable vision for learners. Using a research-based framework helps stakeholders leverage data to tell the story of historic and current conditions. Stakeholders can then use narratives to influence specific changes to system-level conditions (e.g., district policies, supports) directly affecting students.

TLA’s Innovative Learning Implementation Framework (ILIF) can be used to design systems and processes that ensure every student receives an equitable, effective, and engaging education that helps them reach their full and unique potential. As it relates to data advocacy, this framework serves as a roadmap for teachers, parents, students, and community advocates to advocate for system-level change. Likewise, school and district leaders can use the framework to advocate, design, and establish system-level conditions including:

  • Essential Supports that allow educators to effectively and equitably implement instructional practices for all students, across all developmental domains. Stakeholders should leverage data to advocate for specific programming (e.g., mental health services), learning materials and tools (e.g., culturally responsive, rigorous curriculum), and professional development to foster a positive community and culture for all students.
  • Enabling Systems and Structures to lower barriers to implementation and accelerate uptake of learning across classrooms and schools. For example, stakeholders should leverage data to support their advocacy for policies that affirm, protect, and support all students.
  • Ongoing Processes which equitably align, innovate, and improve system conditions over time. Stakeholders should advocate for regularly scheduled data reviews that promote equity and continuous improvement to ensure students’ needs are consistently met.

As previously mentioned, access to data – and the purpose of advocacy – will vary according to each stakeholder’s role. Regardless, advocacy messages should voice the need for systems that are equitably designed and focused on making continuous improvements. Data supports this process by highlighting the extent to which designs may serve students differently and how districts, schools, and teachers may (or may not) be making progress.

District administrators use data to examine and create systems, policies, and programs to ensure all students have the opportunities they need to succeed. From their position, they can also track changes in data over time, enabling new practices to work incrementally alongside the opportunity to iterate as needed to ensure that system-level changes benefit all students.
School leaders leverage data to examine disparities within existing systems and structures to understand how they impact student learning within their buildings. They also monitor data over time to understand what does or does not work within varying student contexts, allowing teachers and other educational staff to shift their practices. Finally, they incorporate data to identify crucial teacher and student supports, ranging from professional learning, to academic counseling, to specific materials or tools.
Teachers rely on data to advocate for systems and structures that allow them to serve their students best, whether new professional learning and curricular resources or additional student supports such as counseling or English language resources.
Families can petition districts to use data-driven, equity-focused practices in their designs and request data to ensure newly implemented policies and practices are meaningful for all students. They might also request changes based on discrepancies that may be identified through data analysis.
Community advocates leverage data to advocate for social justice. This could be related to changes in policies, the distribution of resources, or specific practices that could better benefit different subpopulations of students.
Students sit at the center of this framework and may use data to advocate for learning opportunities that allow them to experience an equitable, effective, and engaging education.

Regardless of their role or position, stakeholders can use this framework as a tool to:

  • Develop shared language to support advocacy;
  • Identify and communicate about levers for change, including frequently overlooked non-instructional areas;
  • Assess current capacity and organize opportunities for improvement; and
  • Monitor and reflect on progress and sticking points.

The example below describes how a stakeholder group used discipline data to advocate against exclusionary disciplinary policies in favor of more equitable learning opportunities following TLA’s ILIF framework.

The following strategy provides an example of how data can be leveraged to advocate for students using TLA’s ILIF Framework.

See Activity 2: Leveraging Data for Systemic Change - WHY Stakeholders Advocate in the Data Advocacy Reflection and Planning Workbook to create a plan for outlining the type of data you should gather and how to access it according to your role, using a framework of questions.


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