Data Systems That Work

Education data systems only work when they provide information that students, parents, teachers, school leaders, and trusted school partners need to support student success. Data collected over time and across systems can be used to create tools and generate feedback to ensure those working closest to students have the information they need at the right time.

What Effective Systems Can Do

These tools and feedback are vital to creating a culture of continuous improvement in schools. High school feedback reports provide educators and school leaders with information on how a class of high school graduates fares in postsecondary—information that can inform improvements to lesson plans and courses to better prepare future students for college. Early warning systems help educators identify students who are at risk of dropping out and need individual support from educators. Connections to data from other agencies that serve students, such as child welfare systems, help schools and educators better support students most in need of extra assistance by identifying their needs outside of the classroom.

Without these linkages across states and systems, critical decisionmakers in students’ lives do not have the information they need to best support those students. Securely linking key data systems (like early childhood, K–12, postsecondary, and the workforce) and linking data across sectors (like education, health, and child welfare), can help families, educators, schools leaders, and policymakers know what programs and policies work and how to best allocate resources.

Everyone Has a Role to Play

Policymakers have a unique role to play in developing and linking data systems that are critical to making data work for students. States must develop strong data governance structures that define roles and responsibilities in collecting, linking, and using data—and ensure that agencies with a stake in education have a seat at the table.

States can lead by example by modeling the use of data in their own decisionmaking and proactively communicating with the public about how they measure progress, hold schools accountable, and safeguard students’ privacy. Districts, too, must ensure that those in leadership roles can effectively use data to make tough decisions to get the most out of the resources available to them.

Action Steps

  • Read more about how states can securely share limited, critical information about how students in foster care fare in school.
  • Check out this video on how Chicago Public Schools used information on student behavior, attendance, and grades to identify at-risk students and help get them back on track.
  • Check out DQC’s Four Policy Priorities for specific actions policymakers can take to support this topic.