Access, Communications, Transparency

From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching, Week of February 1

From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching, Week of February 1

As we all try to understand our rapidly evolving education environment during the COVID-19 crisis and the uncertainty that surrounds it, the Data Quality Campaign is working to elevate what’s happening – whether it’s concrete examples of what’s working in states and districts, ideas and proposals from the field, or things our organization and others are exploring. To accomplish this, we’re bringing you our thoughts on the most salient conversations happening in the last week on navigating education during the pandemic and future recovery efforts.

We’re writing this column together to combine our perspectives: Jenn brings years of experience in the classroom and in education leadership at the district and federal levels, while Paige’s expertise comes from more than a decade working on state and federal education data policy and issues. Check back weekly for our roundup of noteworthy thinking on education data and policy.

Evidence-based government. The Biden administration continues to issue executive orders, memos, and proposed legislation with implications for data use, and last week it published a memorandum about its commitment to restoring trust in government through evidence-based decisionmaking. The first paragraph of the memo proclaims, “Scientific and technological information, data, and evidence are central to the development and iterative improvement of sound policies, and to the delivery of equitable programs, across every area of government.”  When you’re talking about using data and evidence to build trust, increase equity, and improve public policy, you’re speaking DQC’s language. And all of these actions out of the gate indicate that this administration is likely open to the idea of investing in state and local data system infrastructure, as DQC has called for in our transition memo. This is especially important because of the impact this infrastructure has at the state and local levels (more on that below). We will continue to eagerly watch what comes out of the administration regarding education data (like the COVID-19 response executive order, which Jenn commented on last week), and DQC will continue to publish commentary and roundups on our blog and elsewhere. Stay tuned.

Mayors saving lives with data. Bloomberg Cities Network talked to the mayors of New Orleans, Phoenix, and Topeka, who all said the same thing: “That grounding local decision making in data has unquestionably saved lives in their communities.” We know that accurate, useful data is critical in making decisions across areas of our lives, but it’s especially moving to hear these leaders talk about the lifesaving consequences of using data to manage pandemic response. Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla made a point to discuss the importance of using data across communities, including education: “Data gives us a shared language that we use with the business community, church community, and school community. COVID has created this culture in which we’re all looking at dashboards as a norm.” With that shared language, people are accustomed to using things like report cards and dashboards to monitor progress and make decisions, whether it’s about COVID-19 rates or student performance in schools, and that’s a great thing.

Latest in state legislation. Many state legislatures have been in session already this year, and we’ve been tracking several proposed bills—as of today, we’re watching 44 bills in 25 states regarding education data. So far we’ve seen bills touching on cross-agency data governance, postsecondary and workforce data, student data privacy, equity, and more. One bill especially stood out to us this week in Hawaii, where legislators introduced a bill directing its State Board for Career and Technical Education to govern statewide data processes related to industry-recognized credentials data. As we’ve said before, one of the best decisions that state leaders can make is to prioritize getting individuals and system leaders quality information that helps them make choices about careers—including information on high-quality credentials and their associated outcomes. The bill also calls for the reporting of disaggregated data on credential attainment, an important step toward supporting education equity by highlighting for leaders where changes need to be made to support various student groups. DQC will continue to report on and analyze state legislation in monthly blogs like this one from last week.