Kateri Spear, a former high school science teacher, curriculum specialist, and research analyst, is the Data Quality Campaign’s Summer 2021 Leadership for Educational Equity Fellow. She is passionate about using data to ensure all students receive the services they need to obtain a rigorous, equitable education.
Education data systems can ensure that student data is available to education leaders as they work to identify student needs and provide critical support. When leaders invest funds into modernizing these systems, all students benefit.
The federal government has provided unprecedented stimulus funding to states to address education needs created and exacerbated by the pandemic. To access a portion of the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER), states were required to propose priorities for use of the funds and detail required components, including stakeholder engagement efforts, in state plans. States relied on a variety of strategies to engage stakeholders, including focus groups, surveys, public comment periods, existing advisory boards, and webinars. The number of stakeholders engaged varied widely from one hundred to over ten thousand. At least eight states described efforts for ongoing stakeholder engagement to uncover future needs.
The state plans provide a window into how states anticipate schools and districts will use these funds to invest in data systems that support student success. Data systems and activities are featured in 31 of the 39 state plans for ARP ESSER funds available for review. These data proposals fall into three buckets: improving data infrastructure, increasing data publication, and guiding data use.
- Sixteen state plans describe improving data collection and infrastructure with an emphasis on addressing shortcomings in existing systems. Missouri, for example, underscored an emphatic need to update their system, stating, “[our] longitudinal data system, built over 15 years ago, simply can’t keep up with the current need for data collection, analysis, or visualization.”
- Ten states intend to create different types of data dashboards to provide school and district leaders access to a variety of state data with six plans proposing early warning systems. Arkansas describes its plan to provide districts a “SmartData dashboard,” an early warning system that pulls data from multiple state sources to create a score that local leaders can use to quickly find what kind of support an individual student needs.
- Ten state plans propose the development of guides and training materials for data use. Michigan “will work with local and regional staff to support the integration of statewide data results with local results through the Michigan Continuous Improvement Process platform. State improvement facilitators will support local ‘data digs’ to investigate best practices for supporting all students with growth and achievement.”
Education leaders at every level require quality data and data systems to meet the needs of students. The funding provided by ARP ESSER supports investment to meet the immediate needs of students, but the importance of long-term improvement to data systems remains. State leaders using ARP ESSER funding to strengthen data systems are laying strong foundations for student support, foundations that require federal investment to maintain.