The Data Quality Campaign issued its annual survey, Data for Action 2013, of how states are collecting and using education data on Nov. 19, 2013. The advocacy group argues that using data more would improve education policy and classroom instruction. It reported that two states, Arkansas and Delaware, were using data the most. But they’re also seeing a widespread growth of data collection and crunching around the country.
High school feedback reports are a good example. These reports show how graduates from a particular high school fare when they go on to college. The bar chart I created (using data that DQC helped me pluck from several years of surveys) shows that more than 80 percent of U.S. states are now producing a publicly available high school feedback report. Not all of them are useful, high quality ones. (Only seven states are producing great ones, according to DQC). The group argues these reports are important because they help parents dig deeper than graduation rates, and learn whether graduates of a particular high school were able to handle college math right away or whether they had to take remedial classes first.
Another measure of how data use is becoming institutionalized in education is that the data systems themselves are becoming part of state budgets. Back in 2009, only nine states were funding their own student data systems that can track students from kindergarten through college. Now, 41 states are funding them.
The group also reported that 35 states now give teachers access to student data through some sort of computer dashboard. But it’s still hard for teachers to use this data to target academic weaknesses and help change their instruction on a daily basis.
Paige Kowalski, director of state policy and advocacy at the Data Quality Campaign, said that “these systems are pretty new” (built within the last six years). Thus far, she said, states have been focusing on easy-to-produce aggregate reports, such as the high school feedback reports. “When you’re talking about student-level data, it gets trickier. Privacy. Log-ons. And there’s so much data. No teacher wants to look at 500 data points on a screen. There’s a lot more to figure out,” Kowalski explained.