The Box of Data under the Bed

The Box of Data under the Bed

I have two elementary school–aged boys (see the requisite Star Wars bedding and wall stickers in the photo below) who have been in some sort of education environment since they were two months old. Between them I have about 15 years of data about their education—observations on toddler fine motor skills to third-grade reading scores, and everything in between. All of this data is on paper. And all of this data is in a box . . . under their bed. I haven’t organized the data; I haven’t even separated it by child.

Does this sound familiar? I have to assume I’m a somewhat typical parent in this regard.

I know there is valuable information in this box. But it isn’t electronic, it isn’t linked longitudinally, it isn’t connected to any other set of data about my child to complete the picture, it isn’t secure (in fact, it’s a fire hazard), and I guarantee there will be no predictive analytics slapped on top of it.

Are my sons on track to take algebra in middle school? Are they on track to successfully compete for the IB diploma offered at my local high school? Is my oldest son, who Googles chemistry careers, on track to realize his dream and graduate college with a STEM degree? I don’t know. The box isn’t telling.

I understand the questions that parents are increasingly raising about the nature of data collection. As parents, we need to demand that our children’s privacy be respected. But, as parents, we should also be demanding that our policymakers step up and help us bring order to the chaos under the bed. These data and these sophisticated data systems should enable us to access our child’s information easily and answer the questions we have about their education. As a 21st-century parent, I have more educational choices than ever before, but I am in the dark when it comes to making an informed choice.

Demand a better box!