New Report: Action Needed to Improve Educator Data Literacy

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New Report: Action Needed to Improve Educator Data Literacy

Contact:  Dakarai Aarons, daarons@dataqualitycampaign.org, 202-393-7192


New Report: Action Needed to Improve Educator Data Literacy
States urged to make data easier for teachers to access and
promote development of stronger skills


WASHINGTON—February 4, 2014—States should promote data use skills, ease of access to data, and the use of a common language about data literacy to support strengthening data literacy among the nation’s educators as an important lever for improving student achievement, according to a new policy brief, Data Literacy: It’s About Time.

Released today, the policy brief looks at current state efforts through educator licensure and teacher preparation training programs, as well as other policies to promote data literacy – or the skills needed to effectively use data to improve instruction – analyzes research on teacher data use, and provides a framework for teacher data use policy.

The paper is the result of more than a yearlong collaborative effort to define data literacy and set priorities for state and federal policy action among two dozen of the nation’s education organizations, including the Council of Chief State School Officers, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the National Council on Teacher Quality, the National Education Association, the Education Trust, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification and WestEd. The Oregon and Rhode Island education departments also participated.

Over the past decade, teachers have been asked to do more – better serve kids, help turn around schools, close achievement gaps – but policies have not yet supported the skills needed to use data effectively as a strategy to meet these lofty, but critical, goals.

“Good teaching does not happen by accident – it is the result of proper training, pedagogical knowledge, skills, and lifelong professional learning. Teachers can better improve their practice and student outcomes when they also have an understanding of data’s purposes, value, and uses for improving instruction,” said Aimee Rogstad Guidera, executive director of the Data Quality Campaign. “We hope these recommendations inspire states to take action to ensure our educators are provided secure, easy access to quality data and ongoing training and support on how to best use this data to improve student achievement.”

The brief defines data literacy for teachers as: Data literate educators continuously, effectively, and ethically access, interpret, act on, and communicate multiple types of data from state, local, classroom, and other sources in order to improve outcomes for students in a manner appropriate to their professional roles and responsibilities.

“We are pleased to be part of the evolving conversation about how educators can access and use data in meaningful ways,” said Sharon P. Robinson, Ed.D., president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. “Teacher preparation programs are working hard to ensure that candidates can produce and use data effectively in the classroom to realize positive student outcomes. This white paper provides a common language for all education stakeholders about data literacy. Clearly our candidates must use skills as competent assessment and data users to make important decisions about practice that benefit the achievement goals of the system and individual students.”

“Effective data use is a critical part of quality teaching, but teachers must have the skills they need to use data to enhance and improve their practice,” added Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality. “Without state policy to support teacher data literacy, states, districts, schools, and most importantly students will not have the opportunity to reap the benefits of teachers who are able to use data to inform instruction.”

The brief provides the following recommendations for state policymakers to support the development of data literate educators:

Promote Data Use Skills

  • Embed the definition of data literacy into teacher policies and guidelines, including program approval, licensure, professional development, and others as relevant.
  • Use licensure exams and performance assessments to measure whether teachers have needed data literacy skills before entering the classroom. Once states have set the standards of data literacy for a licensed teacher, it will also be critical to measure whether teachers are prepared with those skills before entering the classroom.
  • Promote, support, and incentivize quality, ongoing professional development focused on data use to improve instruction, and based on the definition of data literacy. Learning does not stop in college, and as data use best practices and tools change over time, it is critical that teachers receive ongoing training.
  • Incorporate evidence of teacher data literacy skills into performance evaluations. By providing educators the opportunity to receive feedback on their data use practices, and how to improve, they are best able to build on pre-service and in-service training and continually improve practice.

Promote Ease of Access

  • Provide teachers with actionable, easy to access data. Paper files and Google documents are not enough – nor sufficiently secure – to provide quality access to data. States have a critical role in supplying educators with technology-based, secure, longitudinal data.
  • Ensure that districts and schools have the needed technical infrastructure for easy data use. States have and will need to continue to ensure that districts have needed bandwidth and up-to-date technology necessary for modern data use tools.
  • Promote, support, and incentivize districts and schools to use time and resources in new ways that foster data use. Among the greatest barriers to educator data use is time in day to make use of the information. States can share best practices and support districts in seeking new solutions for data use, including options like changing schedules to allow for data-driven professional learning communities, and using human capital in new ways.

Additionally, federal policymakers can support states in promoting a data literate teacher workforce by promoting, supporting, and incentivizing data literacy through laws, grants, or guidance that provide parameters or resources for educator quality, and/or teaching and learning.

For more information on the Data Quality Campaign, and to read the full policy brief, please visit our website at http://www.dataqualitycampaign.org/.


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The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, national advocacy organization committed to realizing an education system in which all stakeholders—from parents to policymakers—are empowered with high quality data from early childhood, K–12, postsecondary, and workforce systems. To achieve this vision, DQC supports state policymakers and other key leaders to promote effective data use to ensure students graduate from high school prepared for success in college and the workplace. For more information, visit www.dataqualitycampaign.org.