Using Data to Manage Language Schools

Using Data to Manage Language Schools.JPG

“What gets measured gets managed” - Peter Drucker

In today’s world, managing by data is happening in every industry, in every organization. Collecting data is addictive, as it gives a sense of control.

The language teaching world is also not immune to this. I want to have a look at an overview of data in our industry.

Where Does Data Come From?

Data is just the sum of people’s actions. So you manage data through managing people.

Some managers get obsessed with collecting data and monitoring it on a daily basis, and making all their decisions solely based on data. Don’t fall into this trap, it’ll make you a terrible people manager.

Remember, people before data. Don’t manage data, manage people.

Why Do We Collect Data?

We collect data to try and make correct decisions about future actions. The more information we have, the surer we can be of making correct decisions.

Data allows us to spot trends over time, as well as giving us a snapshot of what’s happening right now. It can show what problems we have, and potential issues that may happen in the future.

Language School Data

So what data do we collect in language schools?

I’m going to ignore the financial data, as well as generic marketing and sales data (such as how many leads there are, as well as where those leads come from and how many become customers).

I’ll focus instead on mainly academic data.

Data to Potentially Collect Student Data Non-Academic Data

  • Attendance

  • Unit Completion

  • Course Completion

  • Homework Completion and Marks

  • Class Participation Score

  • Dropped Out?

  • Will re-sign for next course?

  • How many friends have they referred to the school?

Academic Data

  • Test scores

  • Homework marks

  • Can Do statements for language studied

  • ‘Can Do’ statements for language skills studied

  • Other (some programs like vocabulary Spaced Repetition programs track words studied, time spent reviewing, retention rate, etc)


  • Sick days

  • Late days

  • Holiday days taken

  • Official teaching observation results

  • Average of all student data

Academic Manager

  • Average of all the teacher data and student data

How Do We Use Data?

I would say that we use data in three different ways, for both academic and non-academic situations:

1. Remedial Action

You use the data to see if anything is going ‘wrong’. It could that a student has started dropping grades. Or a teacher has had way too many sick days. Or that more and more students are re-signing for another course from one particular teacher’s class.

Depending on what your role is, you can see if there is a potential issue, and come up with a plan to solve the problem. More on this in another article J

2. Incentives

I’ll also definitely write a post just on incentives in the future, but for now, think about this; is the incentive you’re going to put in place (for students, or teachers) really going to have the effect you want it to have?

Is it better to incentivize the individual or the group? (Hint: the group)

Is it better to incentivize the result or the process? (Hint: the process)

More on this critical area soon.

3. Performance Optimization

Even if nothing is going ‘wrong’, looking at data still encourages us to try and optimize procedures so that there’s less wastage of time and money in the school.

There’s nothing wrong with that, unless you try and change too much, too fast, based on too little data. Or it becomes an obsession. J

The best way is to test cautiously. Make a change, and then observe the results. Repeat.

Summary – Principles of Data Usage

  1. Manage people, not data.

  2. Data doesn’t give the whole picture. Remember to look at reasons behind the data.

  3. Use data to find and fix problems, incentivize and optimize performance.

  4. 'Always be testing'.

How does your school use data?