Data Goes Back to School

Data Goes Back to School

This September, as swarms of giddy students head back to school, many parents and teachers have something to look forward to: tools and information to help them support student learning.

As my colleague, Dakarai Aarons, recently observed, “more has to be done to ensure that everyone with a stake in education, especially families and educators, have timely access to information in a useful format.” We can start by taking a look at the work of some states to provide quality information to meet the needs of parents, teachers, and the community. These efforts can serve as inspiration to other states looking to realize the full potential of data use to help all students succeed.

When parents have access to quality data about how their local school is performing, they can make informed decisions about—and advocate for—their child’s education. Until recently, most education data was collected and reported to comply with federal or state mandates, rather than to meet the needs of families and students. States such as DC, Maryland, and Ohio aim to give parents access to high-quality data through school-level report cards and dashboards that include specific indicators on school quality, educator qualifications, student achievement and growth, and other factors. By investing in publicly reported education data, these states are acknowledging the vital role of parents and communities in ensuring that schools are providing a great education for their children.

Teachers also need access to comprehensive and actionable student-level data so that they can continually reflect on and adjust their instruction to improve student learning. Knowing that effective data use is one key element of quality teaching, states are ensuring that teachers have secure, timely access to their students’ data that follows their progress over time, such as course grades, program participation, and attendance history, even when students move from district to district. States including DC, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Ohio are maximizing the use of their data systems by providing educators and administrators with access to easy-to-use statewide data platforms and building educator capacity to effectively use data by providing professional development to school leaders and teachers.

States take different approaches to how they provide teachers with the skills and the time in the school day to use student data. Georgia’s Path to Personalized Learning allows teachers to identify teaching tools targeted to individual students’ learning needs, to measure their own effectiveness, and to meet their own professional development needs based on teacher evaluations and student growth. Delaware implemented its teacher data dashboard in combination with a state requirement of 90 minutes of collaborative planning time each week for every core content educator to have data-informed conversations with each other about how to best support each student. These Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are supported by 29 statewide data coaches. Massachusetts provides educators with real-time data on student performance, including early warning indicators, and school finance data. In addition to timely data access, the state helps improve educators’ capacity to use data: since 2011 over 10,000 Massachusetts educators have received training from data specialists on using data to improve instruction.

With state support, parents and teachers this school year will be able to use data to help keep kids on-track for success. When parents and educators have the right information to make important decisions, students achieve their best.