New Comprehensive Needs Assessment Toolbook

This toolbook is finally done. And I am sure proud of it. For a lot of reasons. First of all, it has just about everything a school team member needs to be successful working with the Comprehensive Needs Assessment process. Second, I developed the entire project in OneNote so you’ll be so organized you won’t know what to do with yourself. (Just pat yourself on the back, because you’ll be looking so durn smart.)

CNA Toolbook Cover

The ground-breaking tool not only has what you need to work through the CNA process, but I’ve also included all of the templates, too. Loads of them. Over 100 in all. Templates for data. Templates for problem-solving. Templates for Root Cause Analysis that you probably have not used before. Templates for name plates, agendas, sign-in sheets, school improvement plans, Smart sheets, and so much more.

And, the templates are so easy to retrieve. They are all right where I talk about them in the toolbook. There’s no going to the back of the toolbook, or another source, or a website – it’s all right there.

How about a quick preview?

Want your own copy? Here’s where to order.

You’ll be amazed at the power of the protocols you’ll have in your hands!








Fix That Graph – Grade Distribution in 8th Grade English

Today’s graph features data related to grade distributions for 8th grade English.  School improvement teams sometimes show grade distributions as a tool to show improvement in a content area.  Sometimes a community wants to see the distribution of grades to determine if there is grade inflation.  Sometimes college staff looks at distribution of grades for the same reason.  Now I am not saying that this data is the right data to use for grade inflation, I’m just noting that this is one way people use this kind of data. 

So let’s focus on the graph for grade distributions.  As you can likely tell, this graph was part of a presentation.  First of all, I’d like to clarify the term, histogram.  In a histogram, the bars touch one another.  In a bar graph, they do not – so this is really a bar graph.  But whatever you call it, the intent is to show the Grade Distribution in 8th Grade English. 

Here are a few quick things I want to note about this slide.

Based on the data, it looks as though this school/district used a grading scale in which:

A          91-100 points

B          81-90 points

C          71-80 points

D          51-60 points

F          0-50 points

Since it says on the slide that this data is used to monitor progress, we’d want to see percentages – and not just how many students.  Below is how I would present the data in for the distribution of grades in 8th grade English.

  1. Use a pie chart.  A pie chart is perfect for showing the proportions of things in relation to a whole.  In this case we can see what percentage of students earned each grade – and this percentage can be compared from one quarter to the next or one grade level to the next.
  2. Write a title that tells what the data shows.  Remember that a good title will tell exactly what the data shows.  In this case you can tell that the graph shows the percentage of students who earned each grade, that it’s 8th grade English, that it’s the second quarter of the school year, and you even know what school this data is from.
  3. Include the percentage with each grade.  You can see from the pie chart that forty-two percent (42%) of students earned a B.
  4. Use contrasting colors to for the labels.  When you design this in EXCEL, the default for the labels is black.  But a black font does not show well on darker colors, so I made the font white.  I also increased the size of the font and made it bold, and then centered the labels within each part of the pie.
  5. Include the source of the data.  One challenge we always have when working with data is comparing it from one year to the next.  It’s important to keep track of the source of the data – which specific dataset you used to create a chart or graph – so you compare the same data set from one year to the next.    For example, you could place the following within the chart or directly under it:

 Data Source:  Quarterly 2 Grade Report, Pleasantville Middle School, 2009-2010 School Year.  (This is the same report you would use for each Quarter for this and subsequent years – to allow you to compare similar data from one year to the next.)

In this case, just a few changes will make this graph easier to read and interpret – and that’s the purpose for using graphs and charts in the first place.

Fix That Graph: Real and Personal Property


I sometimes just shake my head when I see the visuals that are used in city and school district presentations.  The good news is that just about any data graphic can be improved and I’ve got ideas about how to do that.  This is the first in a series of posts to encourage the use of high-quality graphics in public presentations.

This graph was used in a presentation for a City Council.  Let’s take a look at the graphic to see what can be improved.

  1. Make the title say what the graph really shows.  Does this graph represent real and personal property tax percentages over the years?  What city is represented here?  The title doesn’t tell – so neither can you.  Write a specific title that tells what the data shows.
  2. Watch the choice of dates.  The choice of years at the bottom of the graph are interesting.  This makes it appear that there has been a consistent pattern in the years between 1999 and 2008, but is that in fact the case?  In terms of dealing with real estate assesments, it is CRITICAL to know the prior year’s assessments and patterns, because those are used for the upcoming year’s assessments.
  3. Use correct scales.  What is the highest possible number on the left scale?  One hundred percent?  I recommend using a scale that actually goes to 100% if that indeed is the top of the overall scale.
  4. Give meaning to the data.  For this particular piece of data, which is better?  An increase in the percentages or a decrease in the percentages?
  5. Explain the content.  What is the difference between real property and personal property?  Will most of the citizens who read this graph know that? 
  6. Explain, specifically, what the percentages mean.  In 2008, what does 6.21% for real property really mean?  Using a percentage tells us that it is 6.21% of something, but what is it?  We don’t know unless you tell us.
  7. Provide statements to go with the graph.  Don’t forget to provide an analysis of the information through bulleted lists or numbered statements.  You could also write a short paragraph.  You are communicating information to citizens – don’t be shy about what you want them to get from the graph.  Citizens will also make their own interpretations as well.
  8. Use a background color that is visually appealing and prints well.  Gray is not a terrific color with navy blue and dark green bars on the graph.  A simple white background would be better.  When you choose a background, choose one that looks good with the colors you are using and also prints well in color and black and white.