Data Use in Education

Support for Best Practices


"Few people enter the field of education because they love data... Questioning the reasons why we are using data can lead to an authentic purpose when we have the data at hand."

-Dr. Kyle Peck, 2017 Montana Data Use Conference


Educators have more access to data than ever before making a data-use mindset a common reference within the education field(Murray, 2014). However, it is the involvement of stakeholders and educators in the process of data use aligned to curriculum and instructional practices that makes lasting change in a school's data use culture (Lange, Range, & Welsh, 2012). The Montana Office of Public Instruction provides avenues for engaging with data use opportunities:

  1. Stakeholders, researchers, legislatures, and the public have access to our Statewide Longitudinal Data System (GEMS) for an accessible view into Montana's education data warehouse.
  2. Inquirers have the ability to request specific education data through the data request process for any data unavailable on GEMS.
  3. The OPI partakes in active research projects based on requests from the field. These findings are made available through the Research Portal. 

Data Tools Available to Montana Schools & Districts

Data Use Through GEMS

GEMS, as the Montana education data warehouse, provides access to data collected from Montana's educational community to help inform the OPI, schools, educators, and the community about the success of Montana's schools. If new to GEMS as a Montana data use tool, begin with tutorial videos on the GEMS Data and Resources YouTube playlist, register for the Introduction to GEMS Hub Course, or review the downloadable packet version of the course. Or, simply begin by exploring the GEMS website.

One of the most direct tools for effective data use in Montana is the custom-made Early Warning System hosted on the GEMS website platform. The Early Warning System (EWS) is a system that uses live student-level data to determine the chance of a student dropping out in grades 3-12, as well as the reasons why the student is at risk. This system is free to any Montana public school and may be used at any time during the school year. Note that the EWS is only available in the secure version of GEMS in an effort to protect student privacy. If you think you or your school may benefit from the informed predictability of the EWS, begin with EWS tutorial videos on the GEMS Data and Resources YouTube playlist, review the EWS Best Practices document, or hear from Montana stakeholders themselves about the EWS's impact on their students' success.

GEMS General Website Navigation

Montana's Early Warning System (EWS)

Benefits of Implementing an Early Warning System

OPI Staff are here to help:

GEMS Helpdesk,, 406-444-5222

Nicole Frieling, Research Analyst, 406-444-4999

Lange, C., Range, B., Welsh, K. (2012). Conditions for Effective Data Use to Improve Schools: Recommendations for SchoolLeaders. International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 7(3).

Murray, J. (2014). Critical Issues Facing School Leaders Concerning Data-Informed Decision-Making. Professional Educator,38(1).