Over the past four months I’ve had the opportunity to intern at the Data Quality Campaign. Prior to my internship I had a strong interest in education, but knew very little about the role data play in improving student achievement. As a federal policy intern, I worked on several projects that focused on education at the national level, including analyzing educations laws, like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and writing blogs on national programs, such as My Brother’s Keeper. Through this internship, I’ve learned the value of data in creating an equitable education system and ensuring that all students are college and career ready.
A bulk of my semester was spent analyzing IDEA and its data components. Reading through IDEA and the proposed amendments from the 113th Congress taught me how data collected on students can inform data-driven decisionmaking to improve student achievement. The act provides support for students with disabilities and funding to assist schools in meeting the needs of students with disabilities.
Throughout the semester I played an integral role in summarizing reports published by other organizations on equity in education, and I helped present this information to the team. One report published by the US Department of Education exemplifies the importance of ensuring skilled teachers are available at every school regardless of racial or socioeconomic status and also the importance of using data to hold underperforming school accountable. This report in particular opened my eyes to how inequitable our education system can be at times. I’ve learned we can take measureable steps to improve equity. Data can be used as an essential element in ensuring that all kids have access to equal educational opportunities.
Additionally, I have had the opportunity to strengthen my writing skills this semester. Each week I summarized relevant news articles for DQC’s team. I helped organize and pick out language for a resource, which DQC will publish in the near future. I also had chance to write posts for the DQC blog:
My future is full of bright possibilities. I’ve been given an opportunity to intern with an organization that helped develop my understanding of education advocacy and public policy. These are skills that I will take with me wherever I go next. Overall, my experience at DQC has shaped who I am professionally and I look forward to seeing where my future in education and advocacy takes me.
Jason Nicewicz is a graduate of The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. TWC is a program that partners with universities around the country to provide full-time internship experiences to undergraduate and graduate students in the nation’s capital.
The world of “big data” just got a little clearer thanks to the first annual conference on “Data & Civil Rights.” The meeting brought together leaders from the civil rights community, government, industry, and a variety of policy nerds from the criminal justice, education, employment, finance, health, and housing sectors. Hosted by the Data & Society Research Institute, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and New America’s Open Technology Institute, the conference provided a unique opportunity for attendees to form new connections and share ideas with individuals.
Though there’s no technical definition for the term “big data,” it’s used to describe the use of advanced technology to analyze huge data sets with great speed. Many education reformers see the confluence of student data, new processing tools, and the ability to more personalize student learning as a way to address disparities in student achievement. However, a big question in the world of big data is, Will the use of big data analytics further contribute to existing discrimination in our society?
According to experts, the answer will not be as easy as pressing a button.
Human understanding is critical to containing the adverse effects of big data analytics. Inferences about individuals, generated by big data analytics, are reliant upon the relevance and accuracy of the data being used as well as the structure of the algorithms developed to analyze the data. Such algorithms are developed by programmers who may have no sense of how their technical work can have an adverse effect on civil rights.
In addition to thinking about the future of big data, experts reflected on the historical use of data to discriminate. Speakers also noted the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board decision, which called attention to egregious disparities in education investments for students of color. Making financial data publicly available is one way data can be used to help identify disparities in educational settings so that they may be addressed. Check out DQC’s recent report Using Financial Data to Support Student Success.
Going forward, steps should be taken to ensure that data are only used to empower students and their families. Data should never be used to hurt students. Rather, when used effectively, education data may be used to help students reach their educational goals and continually succeed over the course of a lifetime.
New Book: How Do School Leaders Effectively Use Data to Improve Achievement?
In 2013 the Petworth neighborhood campus of Center City Public Charter Schools posted the biggest English Language Learner (ELL) achievement gains in Washington, DC. Through the use of data, teachers and other education leaders in the school found patterns that improved instruction by addressing the unique needs of each student.