Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is education data?

There are many types of data that support student learning—and they’re much more than just test scores. Education data does include test scores, but it also includes other information from multiple sources that is used to support students and manage schools. Data includes student and teacher attendance, services students receive, student academic development and growth, teacher preparation information, postsecondary success and remediation rates, and more. Basically, data is any information that helps people make good decisions for students.

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How does data help students?

Data works for students when it provides key people—like parents and teachers—with timely, easy-to-understand information that they can use to make decisions and act. Isolated data points don’t provide a full picture of student learning, but when the right data comes together—under requirements like privacy and security—it can help people support all students to succeed in their own individualized ways.

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Teachers have taught for years without using data—why do they need to start now?

Teachers have always used a variety of data to inform their professional judgment, from sources like their own assessments, behavioral observations, and student work. But rich information that pulls together district records and contextual information from the state can be burdensome to compile and synthesize, comes from widely varying sources, and is not user-friendly. States and districts must ensure that teachers are getting useful, timely data to help them communicate with parents, personalize instruction, and design interventions to help all their students excel.

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Isn’t data used mostly to punish schools and educators?

For data to truly work for students, it must be transformed from a tool of compliance to one that fuels continuous improvement—it must be used not as a hammer but as a flashlight. Data does have an important role providing transparency to the public and holding systems accountable for educating students. But data must first and foremost support families and educators to improve education for students. That means timely, useful information that can help students today, not just data that looks backward to judge what happened last year.

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Just who can see my child’s education data?

All states have policies that determine which stakeholders, from state education agency employees down to teachers, have access to student-level data. Usually only those who interact with students, such as teachers and parents, are allowed to see student-specific information. Others can access aggregate, de-identified data that enables them to better develop, implement, and evaluate education policy and programs. The federal government does not have—and is legally barred from creating—any database of K–12 student-level data.

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How do federal laws like FERPA govern how student data is protected and shared?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the foundational federal law on student privacy, not only governs when student information can be disclosed, but it also provides a strong foundation on which states can build their own data and privacy practices and ensure every child is ready for success. FERPA does not prohibit the sharing of data between educational entities.

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Does DQC have student data?

The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) does not collect education data of any kind, including student data. DQC is an advocacy organization that provides policy recommendations and champions policies and practices that make data work for students. DQC receives no government funding and is supported entirely by philanthropic grants and contributions.

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