Measuring What Matters

Everyone with a stake in education needs data to answer their questions and make decisions.

State leaders should develop and share indicators that are based on statewide priorities and grounded in available research on what leads to improved outcomes. Indicators should go beyond measures based on annual statewide assessments to provide a fuller picture of student progress and success. With high-quality data in hand, state leaders, educators, individuals, and communities can:

  • More strategically deploy resources.
  • Design and implement targeted interventions.
  • Ask and answer more complex questions to better support students as they navigate their education and career pathways.
  • Maximize investments in state data systems to ensure they are used to collect and share the data that people most want and need.

Empowering Everyone to Make Better Decisions

Every state should measure and share a robust group of indicators that align with statewide goals. While each state’s context is different, here are some of the key measures states should adopt and share:

  • Student Growth: Capturing changes in student learning over time, growth data paints a richer picture of student performance than proficiency data alone. Growth data is also less closely tied to student demographics than proficiency data, making it a better way to measure how well educators and schools are serving all students.
  • Educator Quality and Diversity: Teachers are the most important in-school factor when it comes to student success and all students benefit when they have access to teachers of color. Data about teacher effectiveness and demographics gives state and local leaders a clearer picture of who is teaching in their classrooms and how well they are serving their students’ needs.
  • College and Career Readiness (CCR): Measures of college and career readiness help state and local leaders understand whether schools are effectively preparing students for their next steps after high school. Possible CCR measures could include:
    • Early warning indicators, which often combine multiple data points such as attendance and grades, to alert teachers and administrators when a student is off track for graduation or postsecondary success.
    • Advanced coursework enrollment and success indicators, which show whether students have access to advanced courses and whether they are successfully completing them.
    • Dual enrollment and success indicators, which show whether or not students have access to dual enrollment courses and whether they are successfully completing those courses.
    • Career and technical education (CTE) enrollment and success indicators, which show whether students have access to career and technical education opportunities and whether they are successfully completing those courses.
  • Fiscal Transparency: Leaders need school spending information that helps them understand what’s happening at their schools and in their communities in order to allocate resources wisely and ensure that every student is getting the support they need. When school spending data is presented side by side with student outcomes data, leaders can make better decisions about how to help students in the classroom and beyond.
  • Postsecondary Pathways: Information about students’ postsecondary pathways helps state and local leaders make more strategic resource decisions to ensure that K–12 schools are effectively preparing every student for their next step. Postsecondary pathways data can include indicators that measure the number or percentage of high school graduates enrolled in some type of postsecondary education (e.g., four-year degree programs, two-year degree programs, certificate programs), enlisted in the military, or in the workforce.

Actions for State Policymakers

To ensure decisionmakers at all levels have access to the data they need and are equipped up to use it effectively, state leaders should:

  • Measure and share a robust set of indicators that help people understand how well systems are serving individuals as they navigate their education and career pathways.
  • Share data with relevant stakeholders through clear and easy-to-find tools and analytics that enable better decisionmaking.
  • Disaggregate the data to proactively identify inequities in how students are served.
  • Provide context for the data, helping people understand what the data says, why it matters, and how they might use it.
  • Translate all data resources to make sure that people can understand and use the data regardless of their primary language.

State Bright Spots

State leaders should prioritize making sure the data people need is easy to find, use, and understand. Whether it’s on a state report card or used in a locally-designed tool, data is only useful if people can find and understand it.


High school teachers and leaders in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) use information on student behavior, attendance, and grades to create an on-track indicator to focus on supporting students, make sure they understand their own progress, and stay on track for graduation. Between 2007 and 2014, CPS’ rate of high school students on track to graduate rose from 57% to 84%—in part because adults in schools and districts used the on-track indicator to target students who needed a little more help.


Mississippi’s report card includes a wide range of postsecondary outcomes that show how soon students enroll in postsecondary education after graduating high school, where students enroll, how well they are doing academically, and their career fields.

South Carolina

South Carolina’s report card includes a variety of CTE data to help users understand not only the number of students participating in these programs but also the kinds of programs that are available and the ultimate completion rates of those students.

Featured Resources

Policymakers across the nation are leading efforts to ensure that every classroom has an effective teacher. Faced with the need to dramatically improve student outcomes, states have embraced a policy agenda that promotes and supports teacher quality in many ways, including developing evaluation and compensation policies, targeting professional development, determining the characteristics of effective teachers through research, and identifying effective teacher preparation programs.

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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.