This step involves identifying the underlying causes behind the priority performance challenges identified during data analysis. Root causes are statements that describe the deepest underlying cause, or causes, of performance challenges and they become the focus of major improvement strategies. In general, the process for determining root causes can be thought of as a funnel, starting with the broadest thinking possible about causes related to each prioritized performance challenge and systematically narrowing and deepening the collective understanding until the team arrives at a root cause.
Data for Root Cause Analysis
CDE Developed Templates
These templates were created to help teams organize data and analysis for the root cause analysis.
- Planning for Root Cause Analysis (Word)
Note catcher to help plan for completing root cause analysis and finalizing the data narrative.
- Data Intersection Questions (Word)
Activity for identifying which types of data are needed to answer different questions.
- Inventory of Data other than Performance Data (Excel)
Template to use when inventorying data other than student learning/performance data.
Leading Root Cause Analysis
These activities and templates have been used by schools/districts and CDE staff to help determine root causes. Instructions for using the tools are included.
- Tree (Fish) Diagram Example and Directions (PDF)
A mental map used to brainstorm explanations within predetermined categories.
- Circle Map Example and Directions(PDF)
A thinking map used to brainstorm about a topic.
- Research-Based Factors that Influence Student Performance (PDF)
Factors that influence student performance (as presented by Robert Marzano in varipublications).
- Criteria for Narrowing Explanations (PDF)
A list of criteria to apply to explanations to narrow and refine them.
- The Five Why’s: Root Cause Identification Form (PDF)
A form to use while engaging in the Five Why’s to deepen thinking to get to root causes.
- Getting to Root Cause (PDF)
Thinking Map that describes the process of getting to root causes.
- Validate Root Causes (Word)
A form that structures thinking about what data to use to validate root cause explanation
Root Cause Basics: Preuss, P.G. (2003). School Leader’s Guide to Root Cause Analysis: Using data to dissolve problems. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.
Organizing and Integrating: Wellman, B., & Lipton, L. (2004). Data-driven dialogue: A facilitator’s guide collaborative inquiry. Sherman, CT: Mira Via.
Levels of Root Causes: Preuss, P.G. (2003). School Leader’s Guide to Root Cause Analysis: Using data to dissolve problems. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.
Research Based Factors (Marzano): Compiled from various books by Robert Marzano.