Data-driven education books make great holiday gifts for educators. Yes, really.


As the holidays approach, we’ll all have some down-time to catch up on personal and professional reading, hopefully cozied up by a fire with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. While most books regarding data-driven decision making and value-added analyses can be pretty heavy, I’d like to suggest two books I read this year as lighter options that might also be great gifts for educators.

1.       Battelle for Kids’ “How to Use Value-Added Analysis to Improve Student Learning: A Field Guide for Educators”

SAS partners with Ohio-based Battelle for Kids in several states and school districts on school improvement initiatives using value-added information. Based on over a decade of this work, experts from Battelle for Kids recently wrote this book, which received strong reviews from leading experts in the field.

"As districts across the country rapidly ramp up for using value-added performance measures in teacher evaluations, this book will provide invaluable information on making that data positive and productive, rather than frightening and antagonizing.”

- Daniel F. McCaffrey, Senior Statistician, The RAND Corporation, Pittsburgh, PA

 “A welcome, plain-spoken and eminently practical guide to making the most of value-added analysis to strengthen data-driven decision making and boost achievement in our schools."

- Chester E. Finn, Jr., President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Washington, DC

The book provides a field-tested, continuous improvement model for using value-added information to improve teacher effectiveness and increase student learning. The five-step process covered in the book shows educators how to:

  • Create the conditions for success
  • Examine district, school, and classroom reports to assess strengths and challenges
  • Use these reports to create an improvement plan
  • Implement instructional changes
  • Evaluate and adjust the changes as the new school year starts

The book contains case studies, real-life examples, action steps, and reflective questions in addition to tools, samples, and protocols for implementing improvement based on value-added information. Readers will learn how to put their achievement and value-added information together to examine the results their program is producing and to answer the questions, “Why are we getting these results?” “What are the root causes of these results we are producing?” and, “What do we do to get better?”

The process shifts the conversations about value-added information from blame to analysis and from micromanagement to inquiry.

This book is a key resource for all educators who have access to value-added or student growth data. It can especially be effective when used by teacher teams working through their value-added information collaboratively. As an added bonus, Corwin Press has added the book to its Read 2 Earn program where educators can receive one semester unit of graduate course credit for reading the book and completing a written assignment.

2.       ICLE’s “The Daggett System for Effective Instruction: Alignment for Student Achievement”

Dr. Willard R. Daggett, Founder and Chairman of the International Center for Leadership in Education, released this book at the 2012 Model Schools Conference. Anyone who has seen a Daggett presentation knows that he is a bold and captivating thought leader who brings decades of research and hands-on experience to the field. Daggett finds that the nation's most rapidly improving schools share a sustained focus—on effective teaching and organizational and instructional leadership.

How do schools and school systems strengthen their focus on those areas? In Daggett's book, you will find that:

  • Organizational Leadership is a function, not just a person. It involves a mentality, structure, focus, and commitment to create an environment in which learning is optimized.
  • Instructional Leadership is directly focused on enhancing teachers’ instructional effectiveness and ultimately student achievement, and can be provided by a variety of people, functions, and means in support of teachers.
  • Teaching will be well supported in addressing the challenges of the 21st century classroom if Organizational and Instructional Leadership responsibilities are fulfilled and a culture of rigor, relevance, and relationships is built and sustained.

Full disclosure: I contributed content to chapter 7, “Support Decision Making with Data Systems.” However, after reading the entire book, I believe it is an invaluable read for any education leader’s toolkit for continuous improvement. Happy holidays!


About Author

Nadja Young

Senior Manager, Education Consulting

Hi, I’m Nadja Young. I’m a wife and mother of two who loves to dance, cook, and travel. As SAS’ Senior Manager for Education Industry Consulting, I strive to help education agencies turn data into actionable information to better serve children and families. I aim to bridge the gaps between analysts, practitioners, and policy makers to put data to better use to improve student outcomes. Prior to joining SAS, I spent seven years as a high school Career and Technical Education teacher certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. I taught in Colorado’s Douglas County School District, in North Carolina’s Wake County Public School System, and contracted with the NC Department of Public Instruction to write curriculum and assessments. I’m thrilled to be able to combine my Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing Management and Master of Arts degree in Secondary Education to improve schools across the country.

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