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Data as Easy as 1-2-3

By Anita Young, Ph.D., and Carol Kaffenberger, Ph.D. | September 2018

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Data is vital to support optimal student achievement and social/emotional outcomes for all students. Therefore, comprehensive school counseling programs should begin and end with the continuous cycle of using data to optimize data-driven decision outcomes.
Determining how to collect data, when to begin the process and how to analyze results requires intentionality. At minimum, you should use data to:
  • align the school counseling vision and mission with the school’s vision and mission
  • identify school counseling program goals from baseline data
  • promote evidence-based interventions
  • monitor student progress
  • evaluate and demonstrate program effectiveness
  • advocate and lead equitable programs
  • drive policy creating systemic change
You don’t have to have a background in statistics to use data effectively. The Making DATA Work (MDW) process follows four steps:
  1. What is your goal? (Design)
  2. How will you achieve it? (Ask)
  3. How will you analyze the data? (Track)
  4. How will you use your results? (Announce) 
Using the ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors
The ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success provide standards and competencies for identifying the attitudes, knowledge and skills students need to achieve academic success, college and career readiness and social/emotional development. Using ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors to develop high-quality perception data surveys ensures that your questions align with your intervention’s goals. (See survey sample below.) Use the same survey as a pre-test to determine baseline perception data, and as a post-test.
Once you have your data results, it’s important to share them with administration, school boards and other stakeholders. Sharing program success is one of the best ways to protect your job and ensure that you’re allowed to focus on appropriate duties. (See report sample below.)
Whether you work in a rural, urban or suburban environment, and whatever your level, you can use data and the MDW process to identify gaps and promote student success. Using data doesn’t need to be complicated; rather, it is the only option to drive optimal student outcomes.
Anita Young, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University and can be reached at Carol Kaffenberger, Ph.D., is professor emerita, George Mason University, and adjunct faculty, Johns Hopkins University. She can be reached at

Using ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors to Develop a Survey

Step 1: Identify a program SMART goal.
For example: By the end of the school year, seventh-graders with a GPA of 2.0 or lower in the first grading period will increase their GPA by 0.7.
Step 2: Assess students’ identified needs. What issues or barriers are they experiencing? What do you want to accomplish with them? How can you reduce barriers?
For example: Are these students often tardy? Are poor study skills contributing to school failure, or are their beliefs and attitudes about school the issue? Deciding which of these issues you want to address will determine your goals for your intervention.
Step 3: Identify up to three ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors reflecting what you hope to accomplish with your students.
For example: The purpose of your intervention will be helping students understand the importance of school, building their academic skill capacity and engaging them in the learning process.
You choose the following ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors:
  • M.6: Positive attitudes toward work and learning
  • B-LS.3: Use time management, organizational and study skills
  • B-SS.3: Demonstrate the ability to work independently 
Step 4: Based on what you want to accomplish, write sentences describing what you want students to believe, know or be able to do. These become the foundation for your perception data measure. These statements will drive your intervention, so you need to consider your goal: Changing attitudes or beliefs? Increasing knowledge? Teaching skills? Or a combination?
For example: You want to change attitudes toward attending and being successful in school and increase knowledge about how to be an effective student and how to complete work on time.
Here are the statements about what you want students to accomplish:
  • Believe attending school and being successful is important.
  • Know how to organize time to complete assigned work.
  • Be able to complete homework and turn it in 75 percent of the time.
Step 5: Convert the above statements into survey questions and identify a Likert-scale measure. This is a numerical measure – one to three, one to four, one to five, etc. Respondents are asked to disagree or agree to the statement.
For example: Respond to the statements below on a scale from 1 to 4, where 1 = strongly disagree and 4 = strongly agree.
Survey Questions:
  • Going to school every day is important.
  • My goal is to graduate from high school.
  • I know how to organize my study time.
  • I complete homework and turn it in on time.
Open-ended question:
  • What would help you be successful in school?  

Making DATA Work Report Example: Middle School Achievement Intervention Data Report

Review of school data shows a group of 20 students have one or more D’s/F’s after the first quarter. This pattern has been repeated for the last two years. Individual conferences with students and parents have had minimal effect.
SMART Goal: Seventh-grade students with one or more D’s/F’s in a core class at the end of the first quarter will have 40 percent fewer D/F grades in core courses by the end of the second quarter.
  • Twenty students were identified for the small-group counseling sessions. Ten students participated during the second semester (10 parents gave permission).
  • Students took part in six small-group counseling sessions during Cougar Paws class (15–30 minutes).
  • Group session topics included organizing lockers, book bags and home study areas; keeping track of assignments; managing time; creating a productive home and school environment; developing a positive attitude toward school; and learning about personal goal setting.
  • Data collected compare pre- and post-intervention GPAs and the number of D’s/F’s earned.
  • GPAs and number of D’s/F’s will be compared between 10 students who participated in group counseling and 10 students who did not.
  • The number of D’s/F’s earned by the group participants decreased by 42 percent.
  • Six of the seven group participants raised their core GPA from first to second quarter.
  • The number of D’s/F’s earned by the participants decreased from 19 to 11.
  • The number of D’s went from eight to seven; the number of F’s went from 11 to four.
  • Average GPA and number of D’s/F’s did not change for the students who did not participate. 
Implications & Recommendations:
  • Small-group counseling for this group was a successful intervention. Identified students who did not participate in the first group should be encouraged to participate.
  • The results of this intervention should be shared with stakeholders (faculty, staff and parents) so gains achieved during the group can be maintained.
  • A survey of student beliefs might help determine other useful interventions.
  • Meet with administrators about the benefits of group counseling, and use this opportunity to discuss school counselor use of time and access to students.