Equity and data-driven decision-making

by Professor Amanda Datnow

In this paper, Amanda Datnow summarises what we have learned about data use practices and the implications of this for equity. It is a useful summary of how data can open or close doors for students depending on how we use it.

What is the relationship between data use practices and equity? Datnow’s observations on this question draw on qualitative research into day-to-day practices in schools and systems.

The theory of action for data use is that “when leaders and teachers are knowledgeable about how to use data, they will become more effective in reviewing their existing capacities, identifying weaknesses, and charting plans for improvement”.

But, Datnow contrasts practices in three dimensions to show how data use can actually open or close doors for students:

  • accountability-driven data use versus using data for continuous improvement
  • using data to confirm assumptions versus using data to challenge beliefs
  • tracking versus flexible grouping to promote student growth.

She concludes that equity doesn’t just happen because we use data – it needs to be an explicit goal in the ways we use data.

Reflective questions

  • Where do your data use practices line up in the three dimensions outlined in the paper?
  • Is equity an explicit goal of using data in your school? If not, what actions would you need to take to do this and improve practices?


Datnow, A. Opening or closing doors for students? Equity and data-driven decision-making. Paper presented at the ACER Research Conference 2017: Leadership for improving learning. 

Further reading

Interview with Amanda Datnow – Teacher Magazine 

Datnow A., Greene J.C., Gannon-Slater N. (2017). Data use for equity: implications for teaching, leadership, and policy. Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 55 Issue: 4, pp.354-360. 

Tell a colleague | Back to top