The Data Quality Campaign (DQC), a nonprofit policy and advocacy organization working to empower educators, families and policymakers with quality information, has released a report recommending policies that ensure data is used to support student learning.
The idea underpinning the whole campaign states that students succeed “when students, parents, educators, and partners have the right information to make decisions.” Information about students provided to parents and educators in a timely and useful manner support a student’s learning most effectively.
For example, school leaders should know specifically what resources are needed for great educators; teachers should know where their students are succeeding and struggling; and after-school partners should know what they can do to increase students’ academic readiness and personal growth. The report details how the United States has made progress building systems, improving data quality, and encouraging data use, which the researchers want to build on to ensure that more information is shared between more people.
The campaign argues that states, rather than the federal government or local communities, are best positioned to enact policies and practices that ensure educators, parents, and policymakers have access to the information they need to benefit students. States can maximize investments in data infrastructure, ensure efficiency in data collection and costs, and reduce the burden on districts by providing data training and tools.
The report presents four policy recommendations for states to “make data work for students”: measure what matters, make data use possible, be transparent and earn trust, and guarantee access while protecting privacy.
For states to “measure what matters,” they must link and govern data across all agencies critical to student achievement, from early childhood and K-12 to postsecondary education. They must also develop, calculate, and share indicators based on “longitudinal data” and results from statewide assessments that can demonstrate progress toward stated goals.
To “make data use possible,” states should sway public opinion and allocate resources to prioritize using data in education. They should also ensure that leaders responsible for student outcomes have access to feedback data and support education agencies by providing the flexibility, training, and support needed to implement data.
In order to “be transparent and earn trust,” state policymakers should provide high-quality, relevant and easy-to-find data, the report says. They should communicate the value of data supporting student learning and be clear about how such data is protected and serves both parents and educators. And, to “guarantee access and protect privacy,” state policymakers should that data is tailored to each student and protects the privacy and confidentiality of student and teacher data.
“When we started using data back in the early ‘90s, there was a lot of fear from teachers, administrators, parents. And once people saw how we were going to use data, and the data collaborations, and the data talks, and really the transparency of using data – data is not seen as a bad thing here, it’s actually seen as your friend,” said Christopher Steinhauser, Superintendent of Long Beach Unified School District in California.
If states enact policies reflecting the prescriptions laid out by the report, the Data Quality Campaign says they will be better equipped to ensure students’ academic success and workforce readiness.