During a time of education disruption, students and families need to be equipped with the most up-to-date information. As a state’s most-public education information resource, report cards have the potential to serve as a central location for families to find the information they need. But in 2020, states did not act on the opportunity to use report cards to help families and the public understand and evaluate how the pandemic was affecting student learning.
For the fifth year, DQC examined report cards from all 50 states and the District of Columbia to see how well state leaders are using their most public-facing resource to empower the public with quality information. In this year’s review, we were also eager to see how states used the investments they had made in their report cards to respond to the disruption of in-person schooling and the transition to remote learning.
COVID-19 disrupted tests, but context data should still be available
reported chronic absence data on their most recent report cards, but only 9 states had the data for the 2019–20 school year. Chronic absence has always been essential context for student performance, and it goes without saying that education leaders will need to deeply examine student attendance patterns going forward.
While 28 states reported participation in advanced coursework (i.e., Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate), 25 states reported completion of advanced coursework, and only 16 states provided information on both participation and completion.
24 states did not include all the required teacher data (inexperienced teachers, teachers with emergency or provisional credentials, or out-of-field teachers) on their report cards.
Disaggregated data was mostly missing, but must come back
reported graduation rates for each federally required group of students. Absent student assessment data, graduation rate was the only comparable, disaggregated indicator that all states could report.
When compared to the previous year’s report cards, 6 new states reported graduation rates for students experiencing homelessness, and 6 new states reported graduation rates for students in foster care this year. Data disaggregated by student group is the only way that leaders can understand how policies and practices affect individual student groups. Every state needs to close the gap and report the performance of all required groups of students.
Inching forward: States made progress on key indicators
included school-level per-pupil expenditures on their report cards, up from 19 states the previous year. Providing per-pupil expenditure data alongside student outcomes data on report cards empowers leaders to better understand how resources are being allocated, answer important questions about the students being served by schools, and make more targeted education investments.
29 states reported career and technical education (CTE) enrollment or completion, a net increase of 4 states from the previous year. CTE enrollment and participation data gives families and individuals information on potential pathways and allows them to make decisions for their futures.
37 states reported postsecondary enrollment; of those, only 14 states reported postsecondary enrollment in two-year institutions.
5 states reported military enlistment, and 5 states reported workforce participation after high school. States should continue to expand their reporting on data about options after high school to encompass the many pathways students can take.
States acknowledged COVID-19 but did not report new information about its impact
Not every state chose to communicate about COVID-19 specifically. Only one state used its report card to share how school closures affected student learning with real-time data.
- North Dakota included a COVID-19 responses page for each school with data on the number and percentage of students utilizing in-person learning, hybrid learning, and virtual learning. The reported numbers and percentages are updated every few days, giving families the most up-to-date information on the school learning environment. The report card also links to each school’s health and safety plan and distance learning plan.
Others added language to their report cards to communicate the impact on data:
- Iowa provided a chart of each indicator included on its report card describing the availability of that data and notes on changes to reporting due to COVID-19. Visitors could clearly read which data was affected and how.
- Pennsylvania used commonly understood warning symbols to indicate which data was affected by school closures and what year the supplemented data was from. Clearly labeling each indicator makes it easy for any user to understand the school year reflected in the report card.
Show Me the Data: In a Year Like No Other, Report Cards Remained the Same
- Use our scavenger hunt to examine your state’s report card and learn what information you can and can’t find.
- Share this report. Start a conversation in your community about our findings and why it is important for families and communities to have the information they need to make decisions.
- Read our recommendations for state leaders to release updated report cards to inform local decisionmaking and recovery efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. State leaders should consider how they can use their state’s report card to share updates on recovery efforts and ensure transparency moving forward.
- Read our recommendations on publicly reporting state data to ensure that every community understands how schools and students are doing.
In January 2021, a team of DQC staff reviewed school report cards for all 50 states and the District of Columbia using categories such as ease of access, format, data elements, and subgroups. The indicators we looked for reflect both what is federally required and the information we know is valuable to families and communities. We also contacted each state with the opportunity to provide a link to their school report cards for analysis. Once the data collection was complete, the results were reviewed to ensure consistency and accuracy. The data included does not reflect any updates to report cards made by states after DQC’s review. For more detailed information, please see the methods section included in our data file.