The Seven Most Popular Posts from 2021

Updated: Jul 16

Welcome to #BeyondTheMean! 2021 was a challenging year for sure, but it also marked the first year of the #BeyondTheMean blog. This blog has given me the opportunity to connect with hundreds of educators across the country as we work together to improve teaching and learning conditions through the thoughtful application of data analysis and research. Here are the seven most popular posts from our first year together!


Welcome to #BeyondTheMean

I’m Matthew Courtney. I help schools help kids, and I want to show you how to harness the power of educational research and data analysis to drive continuous improvement in your school!

#BeyondTheMean is a weekly blog where I share tutorials, case studies, and research challenges to help get your mind thinking about continuous school improvement in a new way.

Continuous school improvement isn’t for “low performing” schools. It isn’t a theoretical policy framework cooked up by folks in Washington, D.C. It isn’t the enemy of good teachers and leaders.

Research and data driven continuous school improvement is for everyone. It is a focused mindset that ensures that everybody is bringing their best to every situation – every day. It is about intentionality; doing what’s best for kids not because we think it is what’s best, but because we know it is what’s best.

If you’re struggling with a big problem in your classroom, school, or district, I have GREAT news for you! You are not alone! Thousands of other educators across the nation and around the globe have experienced the same problem. By learning to leverage existing research tools and deeply understanding your local data, you can solve any problem that your school is facing. Read more.


Leading Effective Data Conversations

The phrase data-driven decision making has become ubiquitous in education. You find it on job descriptions, embedded in strategic plans, and copied into faculty meeting minutes. But do we, as an education profession, really have a good grip on what that phrase even means? I don’t think we do. In this post, I want to provide some guidance for the next time you gather your continuous school improvement team around the conference room table.

Develop a Data Analysis Approach

The first step to having a meaningful data discussion with your team is to develop a consistent data analysis approach. Consider the myriad of ways that you can manipulate data – there are dozens of methods. Your team should select an approach to deploy consistently throughout the year. This ensures that your meetings are efficient and everyone knows what they’re looking at and for when they open the data reports.

I am a big fan of open ended exploratory data analysis processes. I like that they are replicable, focused on simple mathematical principles, and are cyclical and iterative. Your school or district may have access to additional tools, such as standardized dashboards or reports that come out of your student information system, that may expedite your data review. Your team could also opt to develop their own data analysis protocols. The key is to agree on a process, train everyone on that process, and stick to it. Read more.