Each December, DQC looks back at our research from the year to produce Time to Act—an annual wrap-up of the current state of education data use. This year, DQC’s research included everything from public opinion research to interviews with policy leaders to national landscapes of state legislation, public reports, and plans. Across this research, one big theme emerged: disconnects. Data is a critical tool for addressing the new and persistent challenges facing the education field during the pandemic, but many key stakeholders aren’t on the same page about what information is needed and how to move forward. This three-part blog series explores three of these disconnects and how leaders might begin to mend the gaps.
Educators, school leaders, and parents agree that data is a valuable tool to guide decisionmaking and support individual students. These community members may share a school building, but DQC’s 2021 research found significant disconnects between how parents, educators, and school leaders view data and effective data use. Getting all of these key people communicating with and about data is critical for making data work for students.
What We’ve Learned This Year
Parents and educators alike want information on student performance and progress, but sometimes see different types of data as most valuable. DQC’s national polling found that:
- Parents largely support statewide assessments and that 67% of parents want student growth data—which uses multiple years of statewide assessment data to show student progress over time.
- 63% of parents want information about how their students are mastering academic standards.
- 80% of principals said that locally designed assessments provide a more accurate picture of academic performance than statewide assessments.
These disconnects about how to best capture student learning played out in the national debate over 2021 statewide assessments. Without multiple types of data, including the data from statewide assessments, state and district leaders will struggle to understand the impact of COVID-19 and implement recovery strategies.
DQC’s research also uncovered disconnects between school leaders and teachers about school-level support for data use. DQC’s national polling found that:
- 80% of principals believe their teachers and staff have the capacity and skills to use data to support the academic needs of their students.
- 49% of all teachers surveyed thought that their school leaders were not doing enough to ensure they had the time they needed to use data effectively.
- Even in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, 46% of teachers said they did not receive training or resources on how to assess student learning or progress during school closures.
Without a clear understanding of what support teachers have and need, policymakers will struggle to make data a useful tool in schools.
How to Mend These Gaps
In order to reconcile these differences and help educators and families work together, state and district leaders can:
- Employ different kinds of assessments to provide stakeholders with the data they need. While some assessments provide comparable information to inform policy decisions and others provide in-the-moment data to guide classroom instruction, they all serve a valuable purpose and provide unique data and insights.
- Think more broadly about new measures and indicators that can capture student learning and measure education equity.
- Education researchers and advocates are developing new ways to look at learning. The National Academies of Sciences convened a committee to develop indicators of educational equity and ultimately provide a more holistic picture of student experiences and well-being.
- Education researchers are rethinking ways that free- and reduced-price lunch data—which has long been used as a proxy for student poverty—can better identify vulnerable students.
- The Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) captures data about how schools are meeting the needs of different groups of students. This year, state and federal leaders will use CRDC data to understand how COVID-19 impacted students and exacerbated opportunity gaps.
- Use public reports—notably state report cards—as a communication tool to provide useful information and context to parents. DQC’s annual review of state report cards, Show Me the Data, highlights effective data communication practices to engage and inform the public.
If parents, educators, and leaders aren’t seeing eye to eye, they cannot work together to provide students with the support they need to succeed. By securely collecting, reporting, and contextualizing multiple types of data, state and district leaders can help create common ground.