Not Just a Box Checking Exercise: Disaggregated Data is More than a Federal Requirement

Not Just a Box Checking Exercise: Disaggregated Data is More than a Federal Requirement

New Brief from Data Quality Campaign, Learning Heroes and National PTA highlights how to more effectively report data on student groups

WASHINGTON (October 29, 2019) – Families and communities deserve to know whether their local schools are serving the needs of every student. But 41 states failed to include student performance information for at least one federally required student group on their report cards, and many did not include contextual language necessary for users to understand why the data is useful and how to use it. Without access to disaggregated data – information about student performance broken down by different student groups – that is easy to access and interpret, families and parents can’t understand how different groups of students are being served or act on that information.

A new brief from the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), Learning Heroes and National PTA, “Disaggregated Data: Not Just a Box Checking Exercise,” underscores that disaggregated data is not only essential for understanding how schools serve different groups of students, but also key to identifying opportunity gaps and confronting persistent barriers to student success. State leaders must make sure that families have the data they deserve to ensure that their students get a high-quality, equitable education.

“States must recognize that publicly sharing this information isn’t just a federal requirement, it’s a moral imperative. It shouldn’t fall to parents to find and decipher this information about how schools are serving their children,” said DQC President and CEO Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger. “Families and communities deserve this information – and failing to publicly share it represents a fundamental lack of transparency. As states continue to improve their state-level report cards, they have an obligation to show families and communities that state leaders know this information is valuable and that they want to share it with those who need it to make the right decisions for students.”

State leaders also need to consider their audience when talking about school and student data, as terms like “disaggregation” and “subgroup” can be unfamiliar and even offensive. The brief urges state leaders to consider replacing the outdated term “subgroups” with “groups of students” and defining disaggregation as information broken down by different student groups.

“From our extensive research among a diverse set of parents and guardians, we’ve clearly heard that disaggregated data without specific context around the purpose and intended use is often misinterpreted by parents as an exercise in shaming,” said Learning Heroes Founder and President Bibb Hubbard. “The purpose behind the data is to ensure all student groups’ needs are being met, and that context is critical. We’ve been encouraged by the states that have already led the way and look forward to many more to follow.”

State leaders can communicate the value of disaggregated data by:

  • making the data easier to find on school report cards – their most public-facing resource on school quality; and
  • adding context for the data, including more complete explanations so that users understand why it is being shared and how they could use it to advocate for their students and schools.

“Parents want and deserve meaningful data and transparency on how schools are educating students like theirs. Being empowered with this information is critical to ensure their child is provided a high-quality education and opportunities to reach their full potential,” said National PTA President Leslie Boggs. “It is essential that states make sure report cards and data are accessible and understandable to parents and ensure that schools are held accountable for providing all students with the high-quality education they deserve.”

Click here to read the full brief on the Data Quality Campaign’s website.


Contact: Blair Mann,, 202-393-7192

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 and follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@EdDataCampaign).

About Learning Heroes
Learning Heroes informs and equips parents to support their children’s academic and developmental success. Through unprecedented parent research, development of research-based communications, and partnerships with local and national organizations (including local and state education agencies, civil rights organizations, parent organizations, and more), we work to give parents a more accurate and complete picture of their child’s achievement so they can better advocate on behalf of their child. For more information, visit

About National PTA
National PTA® comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family engagement in schools. PTA is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education. Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health, and welfare of children and youth. For more information, visit