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Forum Curriculum for Improving Education Data
NCES 2007-808
May 2007

Lesson: Data Flow and Data Cycles


Data Steward/Coordinator


This lesson introduces the concept and components of data flow and data cycles: the processes of creating, reporting, and applying data in schools, and the repetition of these processes from year to year. Participants will discuss the emerging importance of data in schools, identify the many sources of school data, and develop both a complete district-wide data flow diagram and an understanding of where in that process incorrect data can be identified and corrected.


  • Demonstrate an understanding of the steps involved when schools create and apply data.
  • Identify the school personnel involved in each step of the data-flow process and their interdependence.
  • Describe the role of the Data Steward/Coordinator in the flow of data.
  • Identify the multiple data cycles in the school environment.

Instructor Preparation

  • The Data in Schools form will be the basis of an exercise in Developing a Data Calendar. Decide whether you will collect the forms for later distribution or notify participants that the forms will be needed later.
  • Make a single copy of the following lesson resources (which can be found in the Lesson Resources section column at the top of this page) for each participant:
    • Data in Schools
    • The Flow of Education Data
    • Data Production and Consumption Cycle

Essential Learnings

  • Optimizing each of the four characteristics of quality data (accuracy, security, utility, and timeliness) requires understanding how data flows through the various Local Education Agency (LEA) systems, from data entry to reporting, and recognizing the many cycles involving  data and report production.
  • Data flow refers to the progression of data up through successive administrative levels.
  • Data cycle refers to the recurring timeline for the production, application, and reporting of data.
  • There are multiple data flows and data cycles in the production of data in an LEA.