Frequently Asked Questions

Wondering what exactly education data is, why it matters for helping individuals succeed, or how the Data Quality Campaign works to promote effective data use?

Here are answers to these and other frequently asked questions.

Need to Know Facts:

  • Education data includes a wide range of information about individuals’ education backgrounds, progress, opportunities, and outcomes—and is protected by privacy laws and policies.
  • Individuals, families, educators, and leaders at all levels use education data to help individuals achieve their education and workforce goals.
  • The Data Quality Campaign helps state and district leaders create the policy conditions necessary for people to use education data effectively.
Teachers at Skyline High School meet with community partners to plan work-based learning opportunities for students.

Education data is any information that can be used to help individuals achieve their education and workforce goals. People often associate education data first with test scores; yet those are just one of the many types of data that support learning. Other examples include student background and demographics, enrollment and attendance, performance and growth, staff and facilities, postsecondary readiness and success, workforce outcomes, and more. Read more about education data here.

Data works for individuals when it empowers them to make decisions about their futures. Key people—like families and educators—need timely, easy-to-understand information that they can use to support individuals in their decisionmaking. Isolated data points don’t provide a full picture of student learning, but when data comes together—under requirements like privacy and security—it can help people support all individuals to achieve their unique goals.

No! People need data to answer their questions and provide key support to individuals at every step of their journey—including their early childhood experiences and post-high school plans. In many places, leaders are taking action to bridge data gaps between early childhood, K–12, postsecondary, and the workforce. Building these connections makes it possible to see how individuals are progressing over time, provide key support during transition periods, and understand what it takes for students to achieve their long-term goals.

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

To make data work for all individuals, it must be transformed from a tool of compliance to a driver of continuous improvement—used not as a hammer, but as a flashlight. Leaders rely on data to promote transparency and hold systems accountable for how they are serving individuals. But first and foremost, families and educators use data to help all individuals learn and achieve their goals. That means ensuring access to timely, useful information that can help individuals today, not just data that looks backward to judge what happened last year.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the foundational federal law on student privacy, not only governs when individual-level 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. Read more about responsible data use.
The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) does not collect education data of any kind, including individual-level data. DQC is an advocacy organization that provides policy recommendations and champions policies and practices that make data work for individuals throughout their education and workforce journeys. DQC receives no government funding and is supported entirely by philanthropic grants and contributions. Read more about our work.

Still Have Questions?

Read more from DQC on education data and use.

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Time to Act 2020 explores five key themes that marked this year—and that will frame education policy conversations next year.

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We envision a world where data is used to drive systemic change, economic mobility, and student success.

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We advocate to change the role of data to ensure that data works for everyone navigating their education and workforce journeys.