PRINCIPALS' UNDERSTANDING AND UTILIZATION OF STUDENT GROWTH DATA TO IMPROVE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT AND TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS
The Race to the Top Initiative required that educational leaders not only give attention to student achievement, but also use student growth as a significant measure of educational effectiveness. Current accountability measures compel schools and districts to ensure adequate student growth or progress and close the achievement gaps among student subgroups. Educational effectiveness is now measured by a student's growth over a period of time, instead of achievement at one point in time. As a result, there must be a paradigm shift in the thinking of school leaders from solely focusing on increasing the achievement of low performing or underserved students to the growth and progress of all students. The purpose of this study was to explore principals' understanding and utilization of student growth data to increase achievement and improve teacher effectiveness. Using the phenomenology approach, the researcher sought to discover principals' perceptions of their efficacy with using student growth data to make evidenced-based decisions and describe their lived experience with incorporating student growth data in an effort to improve student outcomes and teacher effectiveness. The researcher identified seven themes that were divided into three categories - application of data, achievement, and teacher effectiveness. The themes leveling the playing field, justify what we do, mastery experience, and vicarious experience were categorized under application of data. In the achievement category, the theme academic structure emerged. Professional learning and critical conversations are the themes that emerged in the teacher effectiveness category. The findings of this study fill a gap in the literature by providing pragmatic means of using growth data to address the needs of struggling and high achieving students and improving the effectiveness of teachers. School leaders may use the findings in this study to help guide their efforts to incorporate growth data in their decision-making resulting in desired student outcomes and progress, as well as, building the capacity of teachers to implement instructional practices that may result in growth for all students.