Published Online: January 9, 2002
Published in Print: January 9, 2002, as Testing



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Better Use of Data: New American Schools is launching an accountability and evaluation service that aims to help schools and districts collect, manage, and use student-achievement data more effectively.

The initiative is one of several consulting services that the Arlington, Va.-based private, nonprofit group plans to offer to states, districts, and schools in six areas: leadership and management, accountability and evaluation, professional development, special education, resource allocation, and community engagement.

Last fall, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded $2 million to the organization, in part to support those efforts. In December, the Carnegie Corporation of New York gave $300,000 to New American Schools specifically to help launch its accountability service.

"Student-performance data should be fair and accurate, and further research is needed to assess it better," Vartan Gregorian, the president of the New York philanthropy, said in announcing the grant. "We expect the work of New American Schools to create a better understanding of these complex issues."

Initially, the group plans to review the offerings of companies that provide online information-management and data- warehousing systems to schools. NAS, which was founded to pioneer comprehensive improvement strategies, also hopes to identify "best practices" in the use and management of data across districts.

The goal, said Richard Wenning, the vice president of the group and the head of its newly formed services network, "is to identify potential strategic partners for NAS that we could then work with in districts, and also use one of those systems for our own purposes here."

The group is interested in the ability to track individual students' progress over time. But it would also like to go beyond test scores and look at other information that could offer a more complete picture of what is happening in classrooms and help teachers modify instruction.

The new venture coincides with passage of a federal education law that will require states and districts to expand or modify their testing and accountability systems. "We are basically positioning ourselves to be able to help states and districts make [those] adjustments," Mr. Wenning said.

"This critically needed service is a response to the lack of quality data and poor data management that has plagued schools and school districts and prevented them from measuring and communicating student progress in meaningful ways," Mr. Wenning added.

—Lynn Olson

Vol. 21, Issue 16, Page 12

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