During this time of recovery from education disruption, access to data is more valuable than ever. Families need the timeliest possible information on how schools are serving students so that they can make decisions for their futures. But states haven’t kept up their end of the bargain by providing this information to the public on their report cards and the US Department of Education hasn’t used its resources to help states push beyond a focus on compliance. As a result, report cards remain difficult to find, use, and understand. During an ongoing health and economic crisis, that is not acceptable.
This year is the sixth time that DQC has reviewed report cards from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Our review uncovered a commitment to compliance rather than the courage to share information, even if the report card shows that students have fallen behind. Despite flexibility on 2021 report card timelines, timely information on student academic performance is the bare minimum that states should be including on their report cards. States largely failed to provide context for how schools are supporting students during recovery and, if data is not available, explain why.
After years of pressure and the requirement to break down data by all groups of students, report cards still lack this information.
disaggregated achievement data by all federally required student groups—an increase of three from 2019. While this increase seems like good news, the reality is that nine states added this information to their report cards while six states removed it.
Not sharing data broken down by the five originally required student groups is unacceptable. The federal government should hold states to the 20-year-old requirement that they share this data on their report cards now. And state ESSA plans to include newer groups have been in place for at least five years. If gathering and sharing data for these newer groups of students remains a barrier, federal leaders must provide support to states to help them accomplish it.
Although most states have updated their report cards, many are missing key information about the 2020–21 school year.
Of the 43 states that had already published 2021 report cards:
did not include 2021 assessment data.
did not include 2021 high school graduation rates.
did not include 2020-21 chronic absenteeism data.
Report cards are meant to give families access to information about state, district, and school performance. But without up-to-date performance data, these resources are missing the critical information necessary for people to understand how schools are supporting students. Worse, among the states that failed to include 2021 data, many provided data from inconsistent years—e.g., 2019 assessment data and 2020 high school graduation rates on their 2021 report card—asking users to make sense of a patchwork of information.
Students and their families deserve more than outdated data or a scavenger hunt when trying to find out information about their school’s or district’s progress.
Families need to be able to act on this data. And no one can act on data they can’t find, use, or understand.
Of the 25 states that included some form of translation, only
had translations that were considered high quality (e.g., they were not provided by Google Translate, and they included all labels and descriptions). As meeting the needs of populations that speak multiple languages remains a challenge for states, the federal government must provide support and pressure for states to develop and deploy the best methods for translating state report cards.
Years into producing them, state report cards remain difficult to navigate for parent audiences. Data is often spread across different parts of report card websites, which are frequently clunky and slow and require reloading to find information from different schools or years. And the data that is available is oriented toward accountability, not toward actual use by families.
Show Me the Data: States Have Lost Momentum on Improving Report Cards
- 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 Education Data 101 briefing book for a better understanding of how policymakers can support better federal student data policy.