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States on Track to Have Top-Notch Data Systems

Departments of education at the state level with high-quality longitudinal data systems in place have doubled within the last year.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a leader in student data collection, visits students at Chadwick (Md.) Elementary School.

Departments of education at the state level with high-quality longitudinal data systems in place have doubled within the last year, according to the sixth annual data for action report released by the Data Quality Campaign, an organization that encourages policymakers to use high-quality education data to improve student achievement. The report shows "unprecedented" progress, with 24 states having implemented the 10 state actions to ensure effective data use standards set by the data Quality campaign. The organization predicts all states will have complete systems by September 2011.

"States are getting the message that it's about taking actions that build a culture that values data," says Aimee Guidera, executive director of the data Quality campaign. "Data has to be dealt with from political leadership at the highest levels. It can't just be left to sit in a basement."

The 10 actions provide a road map for states to link data across pre-kindergarten, K12 and postsecondary education systems; make data accessible to teachers, administrators and policymakers; and use the data to improve student achievement. The actions encourage states to create data warehouses with information on individual student achievement, demographics, teacher assessments, district finances, and the number of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches. The Data Quality Campaign would like individual student progress reports to be generated and more systems put in place to provide timely access to information.

"One change has been the use of the bully pulpit. Both Bush and the Obama administration talked about the importance of information. We will never meet our goals as a nation unless we value information and use it appropriately. That message has been mirrored at the state level," says Guidera. Despite the great strides many states have made in collecting data, many are still lagging particularly Maine, Connecticut, Montana and South Dakota. According to Guidera, 17 states still don't have the ability to connect teacher and student data, 15 states don't collect course information, and 11 don't have the ability to link K12 to postsecondary information.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley was honored by the Data Quality Campaign with the 2010 Data Leadership Award. In spring 2010, O'Malley worked with the Maryland state legislature, the state department of education, and the University System of Maryland to develop a bill that would create the Maryland Longitudinal Data System Center. The goal is to follow students from pre-kindergarten, K12 and postsecondary studies into the workforce in order to prepare all students better. Bob Swiggam, CIO of the Georgia Department of Education, and Jason Martinez, director of assessment, technology and accountability with Denver (Colo.) Public Schools, also received the 2010 award.

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