The theme of the past two years when it comes to education data has definitely been privacy. Conversations have primarily focused on safeguarding data, and less attention has been paid to developing resources and opportunities for educators to use that data in service of their students. In the 2015 legislative session, however, state leaders have been looking at privacy and policies that promote data use. Below is a sample of some of the great stuff that has been introduced this session. While the realities of the legislative process are that these won’t all pass this year, I am nonetheless excited to see our state leaders having conversations about empowering educators with data, all in service of students!
States have a responsibility to be sure that educators and parents have access to their individual students’ data. Minnesota has taken one approach to providing that access by introducing a student data backpack bill requiring the commissioner of education to provide access to student data stored in the state’s data system to the student’s parent, teacher, and district. The bill is aimed at personalizing instruction to improve achievement and increasing the parent role in education by providing access to their child’s data. Providing the most important stakeholders with access to their child’s data through platforms like student data backpacks allows for greater understanding of how the child is doing in the classroom. (More on data backpacks here.)
In the Sunshine State, Florida legislators are working to combat chronic absenteeism by using data to identify students in need of additional support and interventions. This bill creates the conditions for an early warning system provided by the state. By using indicators around attendance and discipline, administrators can make note of which students are at risk of chronic absenteeism—often a sign students are at risk of dropping out—and can determine strategic interventions to help these students catch up and stay on schedule with their classmates, regardless of their circumstances. Several other school districts across the US, such as Chicago, have seen great success in improving student achievement through an early warning system.
In order for data to be used effectively and securely in the classroom, teachers and administrators must be provided with professional development opportunities to develop their data skills. Two states are taking a legislative approach to supporting data use skills. Minnesota introduced a bill that would require future teacher development programs to include opportunities for teachers to use student data as part of their daily work to increase achievement. Washington also introduced a bill that pushes for a collaborative effort by teachers, school leaders, and other educators to identify student and educator learning needs using 31 different data sources. These are just two examples of attempting to create the conditions for educators to have opportunities to understand the value and use of data in their classroom.
Of course, to use any of this data, it has to be trusted. That is why so many states have spent the past couple of years focusing on safeguarding data. Data are most valuable when they are high quality, available when you need them, trustworthy and safe, and useful.
So many things are happening in legislatures this year, I couldn’t fit it all in one blog! Stay tuned for part two.