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Raw Data: Moving Beyond Anecdotal Evidence to Support Student Referrals

Updated: 1 day ago

I preface this by stating: I believe anecdotal evidence is important and has a place and time. However, traditionally, anecdotal evidence has served as a common basis for justifying student referrals and classifications. While recognizing the value of these teacher observations, it is essential to acknowledge the inherent subjectivity, bias, and limited scope of anecdotal evidence.



In contrast, raw data provides an objective and comprehensive perspective on student performance, fostering fair and accurate referral decisions. As aptly expressed by one supervisor I worked with: "no one can argue with raw data."


In place of relying on anecdotal notes to support performance exams and benchmarks, the foundation for referrals should be raw data. Raw data is synonymous with formative assessment and when making referrals, this data should be backed by performance exams and complemented with anecdotal observations.


Actionable Steps for Educational Leaders

Below are three shifts leaders can make to integrate raw data collection into the student referral process:


Make the daily collection of formative assessment in the classroom a non-negotiable

  • During PLC meetings, teacher debriefs, professional development, and any other opportunities for teacher feedback, emphasize formative assessments and Check for Understanding practices.

  • Encourage data analysis to occur within the classroom so that more time within PLC's can be spent discussion actionable next steps. More on that here.

  • Communicate these expectations clearly to teachers, highlighting the positive impact on student support and overall improvement.

  • Provide resources, like templates and guidelines, to facilitate the integration of daily data collection into lesson plans. Actually, why not encourage teachers to include it within the lesson plan itself.

  • Recognize and celebrate teachers consistently implementing effective raw data collection practices.


Prioritize time during PLC meetings for educators to discuss the data and next steps.

  • Allocate dedicated time during Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings for collaborative review and analysis of collected raw data.

  • Encourage teachers to share insights, observations, and successful strategies related to data interpretation.

  • Provide training on effective coding and analysis techniques, empowering educators in interpreting the data.

  • Foster a collaborative environment where teachers collectively derive actionable insights and make informed decisions based on analyzed data.


Create a checklist to guide teachers on necessary steps and requirements before initiating referrals

  • Develop a comprehensive checklist outlining the necessary steps and criteria for submitting referrals.

  • Offer clear guidance on the types of data, assessments, and observations required before initiating a referral.

  • Ensure teachers have access to the checklist and understand its importance in maintaining a standardized and fair referral process.


By prioritizing the collection and analysis of raw data, educational leaders can revolutionize the student referral process, moving away from subjective anecdotes and toward a more informed and equitable decision-making approach. These actionable steps empower teachers, foster collaboration, and establish a foundation for fair, data-driven, and ultimately effective student support.


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