Last week I did a quick roundup of some of the legislative efforts to make education data useful to educators. Early warning systems, student data backpacks, and professional development focused on data use have all been topics of legislation this session. Lest you think that is the extent of policymaker attention on #eddata use—I am here to tell you, fret not, reader, there is more. In addition to policies proposed to help teachers use data, there has also been a slew focusing on using data to better understand the quality of teacher preparation programs and how well teachers are supporting student learning. You can find round two of our mid(ish)-legislative session recap, below.
Publicly reporting data regarding the characteristics and success of state teacher prep programs can be used to provide leaders, principals, and aspiring teachers with a picture of how well the programs are preparing future educators. Minnesota, at it again, has proposed multiple legislation regarding the public reporting of information about the quality of the state’s teacher prep programs. One bill requires the Board of Teaching and Board of School Administrators, in cooperation with all colleges of education in the state, to annually collect and report summary data on teacher prep and performance outcomes. This bill in particular also requires future teacher development programs to include opportunities for teachers to use student data as part of their daily work toward increasing student achievement. It’s so important for aspiring teachers to understand the value of data as a tool in the classroom, and to gain data literacy skills while in pre-service training.
Another bill proposed by Minnesota lawmakers also included a requirement that the report on teacher prep data be published in an “understandable, useful, and readily accessible format.” More often than not, the public is unaware of the amount of publicly reported data they have access to or are provided data in difficult to understand formats. In DQC’s public reporting guide for policymakers, we suggest making information for stakeholders easy to find, access, and understand. Policymakers should provide additional resources for stakeholders to know how to interpret the information and use the data to inform decision-making.
Texas took a different, yet still meaningful, approach to the reporting of teacher prep data. The Lone Star State’s bill requires each teacher prep program to submit disaggregated data elements to the State Board of Education. The goal of these reports is to ensure access and equity through an annual performance of each program.
Also top of mind for many legislators this session are reforms to teacher evaluation systems. I mentioned in my last post that for data to be useful, they have to be trusted. With so much change in the education space right now, particularly new assessments, leaders want to make data-based evaluation systems trustworthy. Several states have focused new legislation on reducing the weight of student growth and academic performance on teacher evaluations. Colorado introduced a bill that reduces the required weight of academic growth from at least 50 percent to 15 percent.
In that same vein, several bills regarding the use of data in teacher evaluations have already been signed into law by governors. These include a Tennessee bill that first decreases, and then steadily increases the weight of student growth data in teacher evaluations over the next few school years. Florida also passed a bill establishing a third of all educator and administrator evaluations must be based upon data and indicators of student performance. Finally, Maine passed a bill that requires student growth to be a significant factor in educator evaluations, however the proportionate weight of this growth is left up to local decision.
The value of data for educators and schools in improving student achievement is only effective when policies and practices are in place to safeguard critical student information. Regardless of what happens with these bills, I am glad to see so many of our lawmakers paying attention to the various ways they can exercise leadership to make data both safe and useful.