A. Pose Hypotheses
B. Take Action: Goals, Strategies, and Evaluation


A Pose Hypotheses

After the data has been collected and analyzed, it's time to "dig deeper" and examine possible reasons for existing patterns or trends. The following Guiding Questions are recommended for generating hypotheses.

  • Why are our children performing the way they are?
  • What in our systems and practices is causing our children to have these problems?

View the following short video clips to witness hypotheses that are posed for children in Florida.  Specifically, Darien Walker (Reading Supervisor for Pinellas County) examines the data to investigate why two student (Ramon and Rebecca) are performing poorly on the state-mandated FCAT exams.  Select Low Bandwidth if you are using a modem; select High Bandwidth if you have cable, DSL or a direct connection.

#1 Introduction to Darien Walker

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#2 Introduction to Darien Walker

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#3 Introduction to Darien Walker

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#4 Introduction to Darien Walker

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One way to examine potential causes is to create a fishbone chart. Let's say, for example, you noted in the data collection and analysis that the dropout rates at your high school were higher than the national and state averages. You could then brainstorm about the potential causes and place them on a fishbone chart (see below).

The next step is to list the potential hypotheses, accept or reject them based on current data, and decide if they should be included in an action plan or if they are "beyond the control" of the school. For example, the following table could be created based on the fishbone chart.

Sample Hypothesis
Evidence (Accept or Reject)
Possible Action
The parents are apathetic. They just don't care if their children graduate from high school. Accept as possibility. Conduct a survey of parents of potential and past dropouts. Try to entice parents to participate in school events.
The low achievers are the ones who drop out. Reject. After checking the GPA of past dropouts (for 9th and 10th grade), they were not significantly lower than those who graduated.  
Most students are employed full-time or with schedules that conflict with school. Accept as possibility.  Probably beyond the control of school.
The dropouts do not participate in sports or other activities in school. Accept as possibility.  Analyze the interaction between at-risk students and participation in school activities.


  • Try to find one or two colleagues to participate in a brainstorming session to analyze an issue at your school.
  • Using either the matrix approach outlined above or a Fishbone chart, list at least four hypotheses for the issue.