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Legislative Action to Support Data Use during Recovery Must Rely on Best Practices

Legislative Action to Support Data Use during Recovery Must Rely on Best Practices

New Data Quality Campaign resources track 2021 state legislative activity, provide guidance for state policymakers working to improve data use

WASHINGTON (December 7, 2021) – Data works as an effective tool to support students throughout education and into the workforce only when accompanied by policies that support and sustain the people and processes behind data use. As state legislators take action to address information needs, they must consider the conditions—including talent, infrastructure, and tools—necessary to meet their policy goals. 

Two new resources released today, Principles for Education Data Legislation and Education Data Legislation Review: 2021 State Activity, build on the Data Quality Campaign’s (DQC) history of tracking, analyzing, and reporting on education data legislation in all 50 states and DC since 2014. Both the principles for legislation, which includes a checklist for state policymakers, and the review of 2021 legislative efforts should serve as guides to crafting legislation that addresses education data effectively. 

“State legislators across the country have an important role to play in pandemic recovery. And in the past seven years, DQC has been able to pinpoint the most important principles for effective and impactful legislation that supports data access and use,” said DQC President and CEO Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger. “Legislators should lean on these best practices to inform any legislative action they take. Students and their families navigating education and workforce journeys do not have time to waste.” 

In Principles for Education Data Legislation, DQC highlights the most effective characteristics of legislation that serve to build trust in data, make it useful to communities, and support policy goals. The checklist for state policymakers and staff identifies the following conditions necessary for ensuring that legislation will improve how data is collected and used in a state:  

  • Leveraging existing infrastructure and policy to build on what already exists.  
  • Ensuring data governance to define the roles and responsibilities needed to ensure clear processes for collecting and reporting education data and to ensure accountability for data quality and security. 
  • Funding it by considering the cost of implementation and accounting for any additional resources that may be needed. 
  • Safeguarding data by providing for data privacy provisions that do not inhibit appropriate use and leave room for changing tools and practices. 
  • Requiring transparency by ensuring that data is collected and displayed in a way that’s useful to communities. 
  • Incorporating flexibility by building in strategies that empower data decisionmakers to make changes as needed. 

Providing context for the checklist, DQC’s annual review of state education data legislation—Education Data Legislation Review: 2021 State Activity—shows that this year, legislators in 45 states introduced 361 bills to govern the use of data about education or the workforce. And leaders in 38 states passed 111 new education data laws. This level of legislative activity focused on education data collection, use, protection, and reporting is not new. But the ongoing pandemic left unique footprints on policymakers’ legislative priorities this year.  

This year’s state legislative activity illustrated several education and workforce development themes: 

  • Renewing conversations about education equity: When schools and districts abruptly transitioned to distance and virtual learning in 2020, education disruptions exacerbated preexisting inequities for students. Data is a critical tool for understanding the nature and impact of education inequities. 
  • Changing postsecondary plans and pathways into the workforce: Families and education leaders will undoubtedly need robust, longitudinal data on students’ postsecondary pathways to navigate the pandemic’s long-term effects. 
  • Protecting privacy while providing online learning: When schools closed in spring 2020 in response to COVID-19, educators adopted numerous online learning tools and platforms to support remote learning. 
  • Understanding learning loss and the use of assessments: Without data from 2020 statewide annual assessments to look to as they determine student needs, many state leaders are reevaluating how they measure student learning and how they use assessments. 
  • Governing data systems and generating insights: The operational, education, and workforce disruptions caused by the pandemic prompted many state leaders to rely on their statewide data systems in new ways to streamline the administration of family services and track student learning. 

“Our 2021 tracking of state education data legislation reinforced the importance of data to understand and address the challenges facing educators and families across the country,” said Bell-Ellwanger. “Moving into 2022, state policymakers must pay attention to and employ these state best practices—principles that have proven effective time and again—in order to ensure that they are truly supporting their communities and improving data use in meaningful ways.” 

For more information on DQC’s Principles for Education Data Legislation or Education Data Legislation Review: 2021 State Activity, visit DQC’s website. 

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Contact: Evan Omerso, evan@dataqualitycampaign.org, 202-787-5723

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 that students excel. For more information, go to dataqualitycampaign.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@EdDataCampaign).