General Information

Data are empirical pieces of information that educators can draw upon to make a variety of instructional and organizational decisions. By themselves, data are not evidence—it takes concepts, theories, and interpretive frames of references to make sense of data.

 Education-related data may be student focused (e.g., demographics, attendance and behavior, performance on standardized tests) or administrative (e.g., financial and staffing information) in nature but are not limited to these types. Data are typically maintained by state and local education agencies, districts, schools, or teachers.

Teachers should adopt a systematic process for using data in order to bring evidence to bear on their instructional decisions and improve their ability to meet students’ learning needs. The process of using data to improve instruction can be understood as cyclical. It includes a step for collecting and preparing data about student learning from a variety of relevant sources, including annual, interim, and classroom assessment data. 

This report is in the public domain. While permission to reprint this publication is not necessary, the citation should be: Hamilton, L., Halverson, R., Jackson, S., Mandinach, E., Supovitz, J., & Wayman, J. (2009). Using student achievement data to support instructional decision making (NCEE 2009-4067). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from  

This report is available on the IES website at  and