Show Me the Data: States Have Seized the Opportunity to Build Better Report Cards, but the Work Is Not Done

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Show Me the Data: States Have Seized the Opportunity to Build Better Report Cards, but the Work Is Not Done

Data Quality Campaign finds states’ school report cards demonstrate awareness of audience, continued need to focus on ease of use

WASHINGTON (April 4, 2019) – States have made investments in better report cards, but every state still has work to do to ensure that these resources provide parents and the public with clear information about the outcomes of students and schools in their state. As states report on new accountability systems required by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for the first time this year, report cards are now easier to find and use, but are still not easy to understand. The Data Quality Campaign’s (DQC) latest Show Me the Data report highlights areas where states are succeeding in providing this information to communities, and identifies areas where states must improve to ensure that report cards paint a full picture of how schools are serving the needs of every child.

In its third comprehensive review of state report cards, DQC’s research team spent almost an hour per state reviewing 114 data elements for each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and, for the first time, Puerto Rico. The results show that states employed various ways of displaying their information—but no matter the format, states must prioritize helping users make meaning of the information.

“Parents and the public don’t have an hour to search for and look through their state’s report card—but we did. Communities cannot and should not be expected to go on a scavenger hunt to find the information they need about their students and schools,” said Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger, president and CEO of DQC. “We’re glad to see that states’ report cards reflect a better understanding that the audience for these report cards is real people who need information to make decisions for their children and communities. States must continue to make improvements that ensure that report cards give parents and the public a comprehensive view of school progress and help them gauge whether schools are serving their students.”

Many report cards still leave parents and communities in the dark, failing to provide some of the most important information about student progress:

  • 41 states do not include disaggregated achievement data for at least one federally required subgroup (like gender or students experiencing homelessness).*
  • 26 states do not include discipline data.
  • 25 states do not include required data on the number of inexperienced teachers, teachers with emergency or provisional credentials, or out-of-field teachers.*
  • 46 states do not include information about teacher effectiveness.
  • 40 states do not share data on teacher demographics.

Unfortunately, states have also excluded some of the most important information that parents want:

  • While almost all states committed to using summative ratings (like an A-F letter grade) for school accountability in their ESSA plans, only 26 included this critical data point on their school report cards. Contrary to this, 9 in 10 parents report that summative ratings help them make decisions about their child’s education.
  • Despite the fact that 48 states are using a growth measure in their accountability system, 10 of those states do not include student growth data on their report card.
  • Although most states publicly report postsecondary enrollment data elsewhere, 27 states still do not include this information on their report card.

“No matter your role – parent, teacher, or policymaker – all community members need clear, easy-to-access information to get the full picture of how their community’s schools are serving them. If the public can’t find information about student and school performance, or if that information is not publicly available on state report cards, communities are unable to address the educational inequities within schools and states,” said Bell-Ellwanger. “States have an obligation to make this information not only public, but also easily understandable.”

DQC’s analysis also recognizes state bright spots as examples that other states can learn from. Five states—Delaware, Rhode Island, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming—included per-pupil expenditure data on their report card before it is federally required. And 31 states have mobile-friendly report cards, recognizing that mobile devices are how most families access the internet.

Notably, Mississippi completed a new design in house in just four months that is easier to navigate and find, is more comprehensive than ever before, and includes simple visuals that help put the data in context. Rhode Island’s new report card features a stronger design with more and better data. And Idaho’s report card features translations as well as performance data for new subgroups, including military-connected students, students in foster care, and students experiencing homelessness.

DQC staff reviewed states’ school report cards across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico as of January 2019. The review was conducted on report cards found through links provided by states or an internet search—and was limited to information contained within the report card, not on outside resources or links. The full spreadsheet of findings can be found here.

View the full Show Me the Data 2019 report—including one-pagers highlighting state bright spots and report card design and language—here.

*These numbers are updated as of April 4, 2019 to reflect feedback the Data Quality Campaign received from states. View our full data file here.

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Contact: Blair Mann, bmann@dataqualitycampaign.org, 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 www.dataqualitycampaign.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@EdDataCampaign).