Data for Equity

Data work is equity work.

Leaders can’t address problems they can’t see. To ensure that individuals, communities, and institutions receive the resources and support they need, leaders at all levels must use P–20W data—early childhood, K–12, postsecondary and workforce—to examine both opportunities and outcomes for all students across education and workforce. Data can and should be used to ensure that every person has equitable access to opportunities that can help them be successful throughout their education and into careers.

Data Advances Equity

For years, Black students and other students of color, rural students, non-traditional students, and others have faced inequities in their treatment and opportunities to learn. The first step in addressing these inequities is data. Data should be used as a tool to understand how to meet the needs of people as they navigate through education and into the workforce. The only way that policymakers and community advocates can identify areas for improvement and who needs the most support is with data that is linked across the P–20W system, broken down by student group—or disaggregated—and timely. It is not enough to collect education and workforce data—it must be used to inform decisionmaking that fosters equitable education outcomes and life-sustaining careers.

Using Data to Address Equity

To ensure that individuals have access to equitable opportunities that lead to success in education and beyond, policymakers must take steps to use data to address equity issues in the following ways:

Leaders need the full picture to help guide decisionmaking in ways that best support individuals, communities and educators—and seeing the full picture requires multiple data points. A single indicator uncovers one facet of the problem, but using additional data points places that indicator in context, uncovering areas for improvement, persistent challenges, and even success stories. Decisionmakers must examine multiple data points to ensure that potential solutions promote equitable access to opportunities for all groups of students.

Leaders do not need to wait for state and federal law to collect and report on indicators above and beyond what’s legally required. To advance equity, leaders should look to indicators such as growth measures, bilingual recognition for students, access to diverse educators and leadership, school and university climate and culture, preparedness for transitions to postsecondary and workforce, and community impact. Seeking out this information will increase their understanding of how well all individuals are prepared to make post-high school transitions and allow them to create equitable policies and practices.

Individuals navigating education and the workforce, their families, and communities should all have access to data that provides insights to inform their decisionmaking. When individuals have access to information on how well schools and postsecondary institutions are preparing students with similar backgrounds for life transitions, they are able to make informed decisions about their futures. And in order to identify patterns, direct resources where they’re needed most, and pursue system improvements for all students, leaders must have access to this information.

Leaders at all levels should consider ways to bring diverse and representative populations to the table. Leaders can accomplish this by making staffing decisions that represent the communities they are serving—ensuring that representation exists at every decisionmaking level, including governing and advisory boards. Leaders should also consider ways to engage with diverse groups of students, teachers and professors, and community members—including individuals of different races and ethnicities, ages, and ability and income levels—to gather their perspectives on equitable data collection, access, and use.

States Prioritizing Data for Equity

States are taking action to advance data use for equity

New Jersey

New Jersey’s State Seal of Biliteracy recognizes students who speak more than one language, including those whose first or primary language was not English. This data is reported on their annual school report card, showing an example of how states can share this information with the public and prioritize indicators that recognize the assets that students bring to the classroom.


As part of Michigan’s efforts to ensure that 60% of Michigan adults obtain a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2030, state leaders track and publicly report their progress. MI School Data highlights disaggregated data on both the percentage of students who enrolled in a postsecondary or certificate program that did not finish and how close they were to completion, and on the impact of remedial coursework on academic success. Indicators like these—broken down by student group so leaders can identify the needs of different groups of students—help Michigan policymakers better understand where to focus future investments.

Featured Resources

Stakeholders at all levels can use the information in this resource to do their part to build public trust in data.
Student academic growth data is the most comprehensive and equitable way to measure student progress and school quality. As states and districts work to reopen for the 2020-21 school year, measuring student growth should remain a priority, especially given anticipated widespread learning losses due to COVID-19. States can and should continue to measure student growth in 2021; to do so, state leaders should start preparing now. This resource from the Data Quality Campaign, Alliance for Excellent Education and Collaborative for Student Success outlines considerations for measuring growth when missing annual assessment data for the prior year, discuss uses of this data, and lays out actions states can take right now to measure growth in 2021.
Families and communities deserve to know whether their local schools are serving the needs of every student. 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. This brief from DQC, Learning Heroes and National PTA underscores that disaggregated data is key to identifying opportunity gaps and confronting persistent barriers to student success - and provides information for state leaders as they make sure that families have the data they deserve to ensure that their students get a high-quality, equitable education.

More on Data for Equity

As the new administration announces its priorities and Congress introduces its first pieces legislation this session, we’re noticing an important trend: a commitment to data. DQC Associate Director Jane Clark shares a roundup of all of the announcements we’ve seen so far.

Education Data 101

Data is one of the most powerful tools to inform, engage, and create opportunities for individuals along their journey through education and into the workforce—and it‘s much more than test scores.

About Us

We advocate to change the role of data to ensure that data works for everyone navigating their education and workforce journeys.