New report highlights state bright spots, recommends concrete steps to ensure report cards are used to help produce equitable student outcomes
WASHINGTON (December 6, 2017) – State report cards have grown stronger through the inclusion of more relevant and timely data, however, there are critical steps states should take to continue improvement, according to a new report from the Data Quality Campaign (DQC). Show Me the Data 2017 highlights strides made by states in their education data reporting and ways they can make their report cards clearer and more useful so that parents, educators, community members and policymakers have the information they need to make decisions that help all students excel.
State report cards are an essential tool for determining if schools are serving all students equitably – regardless of their background, ability, or where they’re from. Information found in report cards such as student test scores, school safety and postsecondary enrollment helps create a picture of school performance and shine a light on inequities. To best inform the policies and practices that drive more equitable education outcomes, DQC’s report says, data found in report cards must be useful, meaningful and accessible.
“Without clear, understandable report cards, people are left in the dark,” said Paige Kowalski, executive vice president of DQC. “Parents need this data to ensure their child has the best possible education, communities need it to advocate for changes in their schools, and policymakers need it so they know how to direct resources. Every state should improve their report card if they’re going to meet their ambitious goals under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”
Education data reporting from states has improved with the inclusion of information that goes beyond accountability and compliance measures required by law. Today, 48 states and the District of Columbia are reporting student test results no older than the 2015-16 school year; 18 states are reporting data from the 2016-17 school year. This inclusion of timely information makes it easier for policymakers to make decisions with immediate and lasting impacts that benefit all students.
However, there’s still work to be done, as no state fully meets parent and community information needs. DQC’s new report calls upon states to build on their progress and produce report cards that meet the needs of families, policymakers and taxpayers. While every state’s report card has room for improvement, DQC identifies bright spots for others to emulate and learn from in areas such as clarity, accessibility and understanding. For example:
- Illinois includes information about school culture and learning environment, as well as data about teacher collaboration, leader effectiveness and family engagement. The inclusion of multiple data points provides a deeper understanding of what learning is like in every school.
- Virginia features information such as discipline rates, chronic absence and postsecondary enrollment, with explanations accompanying each indicator. Data beyond student test scores can also be disaggregated by race and gender, helping to paint a fuller picture of school quality.
- New Mexico allows users to quickly gauge school performance through the use of clear summative ratings. Information in Spanish is easy to find and helps meet the needs of the state’s large Spanish-speaking population.
- Wisconsin clearly identifies priorities for schools in the state, such as student performance and student growth, ensuring report cards have meaningful information that helps parents and community members better understand the data.
- Louisiana eliminates confusion and frustration by making its report cards easy for the public to find. Users can find information on a specific school in just three clicks.
States have the building blocks in place to make their report cards more accessible and useful, and they don’t have to wait to make these improvements. In addition to learning from the strengths of their peers, there are opportunities states can take advantage of – right now – to make concrete improvements to their report cards. States should:
- Use plainer language and clean up acronyms to make language easier to understand.
- Disaggregate data to help illuminate achievement gaps and drive equitable outcomes.
- Work to better communicate their specific education priorities.
“Report cards are an important tool to get useful information into the hands of families so that they can be sure their children get the best possible education. This is why we have spent the last year developing a brand new report card that not only contains better information than previous reports but also presents it in a way that is easy to use and understand,” said John White, Louisiana’s State Superintendent of Education. “This work is critical and all states have a unique opportunity to take action and ensure their report cards meet the needs of their communities as we’ve done in Louisiana.”
For more information on the Data Quality Campaign, please visit dataqualitycampaign.org.
Contact: Julia Banks, email@example.com, 202-884-7315
About the Data Quality Campaign:
The Data Quality Campaign is a nonprofit policy and advocacy organization leading the effort to bring every part of the education community together to empower educators, families, and policymakers with quality information to make decisions that ensure students excel. For more information, go to dataqualitycampaign.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@EdDataCampaign).