This concept paper describes an approach to data that helped support a citywide movement that raise educational attainment rates in Chicago over the course of a decade.


Read the document in the "Attachments" section for the full report.

Five Lessons of Practice-Driven Data:

  1. Prepare – build capacity to facilitate hard conversations
  2. Focus – prioritize research-based indicators
  3. Make Meaning – develop shared ownership over the implications of research
  4. Strategize – Use the right data at the right time
  5. Disrupt – identify and stop inequity

Preconditions for Success

This document describes five lessons learned from data use in Chicago. The lessons, taken together, form an approach to using data for improvement – though readers should not expect that this document will provide a “how-to” manual. In addition, this paper is written from the perspective of an outside partner. Though the lessons learned are applicable in many contexts, including in districts and school management organizations, utilizing these lessons is as much about the practices you’re willing to let go of (e.g.,a high-stakes accountability approach to using data to guide practice) as it is about what new practices you’re willing to take up.

Connection to Equity

This piece describes an approach to data use that was embraced by the Chicago Public Schools, a district whose students are approximately 80% Black/Latinx and over 80% low-income. The backdrop for this paper is a decade of system-wide improvements in student outcomes related to educational attainment. While disheartening differences in outcomes across race in gender still exist on these metrics, all student groups have seen improvement, and some of these gaps have shrunk. This paper also deals directly with the lessons learned around using data to disrupt inequity

Evidence of Effectiveness

We position this approach to data as a significant part of the improvement seen in Chicago on indicators of educational attainment including:

  • + 28 points Freshman On-Track 
  • + 18 points High School Graduation 
  • + 17 points College Enrollment 
  • +3 points College Graduation

Taken together these increases represent thousands more young people in Chicago earning degrees and a doubling of the proportion of CPS 9th graders expected to graduate from college

Associated Measures

  • Freshman On-Track (9th grade early warning indicator)
  • Cohort-based high school graduation rate
  • College application rates
  • College enrollment rates
  • College match framework

Preferred Citation

Moeller, E., Seeskin, A. & Nagaoka, J. (2018). Practice-Driven Data: Lessons from Chicago’s Approach to Research, Data, and Practice in Education. Chicago, IL: UChicago Consortium on School Research.