Using Data on School Strengths and Weaknesses for School Improvement

March, 2020

Source: Studies in Educational Evaluation, Volume 64


This paper examines evaluation data use practices of a network of schools implementing an internal, independent, school self-evaluation process for more than a decade. This network currently uses data on its strengths alongside data indicative of its weaknesses, collecting and utilizing both positive and negative data for improvement and accountability purposes.

We conducted multiple formal and informal interviews with 24 school management members and teachers, and gathered and analyzed 50 school documents in order to understand how the network used evaluation findings for school improvement. We identified types of data use described in the literature (instrumental, conceptual, and symbolic), and propose a complementary type of use we termed “reinforcement data use”.

Our findings suggest that identifying strengths is one of the valid goals and outcomes of evaluation, shedding light on its potential to enhance school ethos, and to promote a positive attitude toward evaluation processes and their subsequent effects.


  • The network used data indicative of weaknesses alongside data indicative of strengths.
  • Reinforcement data use intentionally utilizes data indicative of school strengths.
  • Data on school strengths was used for recognizing and sustaining good practices.
  • Data on school strengths was used to enhance school ethos and staff’s team spirit.
  • Reinforcement data use might facilitate a positive attitude toward evaluation.
Updated: Jan. 15, 2020