Though states are making progress in supporting effective school data use, they must do more to ensure that stakeholders like teachers and parents can easily access information, according to the annual state analysis report, “Data for Action 2012,” released by the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), a nonprofit that advocates school data access for all stakeholders.
In 2012, 35 states provided policy and funding to ensure data systems are sustained. But only five states made sure that data could be accessed, analyzed, and used by stakeholders, the report states. People from parents to policymakers need data beyond test scores to make decisions about policy issues that address teacher effectiveness and student achievement, including student-level data, such as attendance and course information, and teacher and financial information, the DQC believes.
“The things we’re lagging in involve changing the people side of the equation,” says Aimee Guidera, DQC executive director. “It’s not just building IT systems and buying software—it requires changing how people are using the data.”
The most useful data are longitudinal (collected over time), actionable (timely and user friendly), and contextual (presented as part of a bigger picture), the report states. When this information is available to stakeholders, it can be used for accountability and improvement. For example, parents and teachers can compare student performance across the district or state.
Though many data decisions rest with state policymakers, administrators can work to diffuse the idea that educational data is used only to “shame and blame” educators. “School administrators should focus on creating a culture within their district or school that embraces data as a positive tool,” says Guidera. “As we start getting smarter about how it’s being used effectively at the local level, we see it’s where principals and administrators are setting that tone.”
To read the report, visit www.dataqualitycampaign.org.