Federal

States Said to Be Progressing on Data Systems

By Dakarai I. Aarons — November 23, 2009 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Includes updates and/or revisions.

The states are all on course to have data systems that track student performance from year to year in place by 2011, and many are collecting a wealth of information that could lead to better policy and classroom practice, according to a report released Nov. 23.

The Data Quality Campaign, an organization based in Austin, Texas, that works to improve state data systems, reported that 44 states, for example, now collect data that can identify the schools producing the strongest academic growth for students, up from 21 states in 2005. In addition, 47 states now have the components needed to calculate a longitudinal graduation rate using the method agreed upon in 2005 via a National Governors Association compact.

The campaign has identified a set of 10 elements it believes are crucial for any longitudinal-data system. They include a “unique student identifier” that connects student data in more than one database, and information on students who weren’t tested and why.

“The progress states are making, and have been making consistently over the past years, has been expedited this past year, thanks to the stimulus,” said Aimee R. Guidera, the executive director of the Data Quality Campaign, referring to the federal economic-aid package enacted in February.

States had to agree to build out their data systems by 2011 to receive money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

Many states began building data systems earlier this decade to help keep track of the disaggregated student-achievement data required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. With encouragement and funding from the U.S. Department of Education, the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and others, states have expanded their education data systems to cover a wider variety of information.

Priority of Stimulus

The economic-stimulus law included a separate pot of $250 million in competitive grants to help states develop their data systems. How states are progressing on that front also will play a significant role under the selection criteria for the $4 billion Race to the Top grant competition, accounting for 9 percent of the maximum of 500 points that states can score. (“Rules Set for $4 Billion Race to Top Contest,” November 18, 2009.)

In addition to looking for states that have built systems with the campaign’s 10 elements in place, the Education Department says it will give equal priority to using instructional data as a tool for educators in addressing students’ needs, informing professional development, and “fostering a culture of continuous improvement.”

“The [Obama] administration and the Education Department have made good data systems and the smart use of data a centerpoint of educational reform efforts,” said department spokesman Justin Hamilton. “When we look at how to boost academic achievement and how to get good teachers into every classroom, data plays a fundamental role.”

Mr. Hamilton said the work states have done changing laws in preparation for applying for Race to the Top shows promising signs.

“We certainly hope to see more progress and we will be working to move the ball forward,” he said.

In Arrears

States remain behind in several areas, according to the DQC report. Only 23 report being able to match student records from prekindergarten to 12th grade with those of the states’ higher education systems. Fewer than half—24—have a “teacher identifier” system that can match teachers and students.

Despite possessing unprecedented amounts of data, many states have yet to put their new capabilities to use in a way that will help not only drive policy, but also lead to improvement in the classroom, the report says.

To get the maximum benefit, state policymakers must continue to push to ensure the data are used, Ms. Guidera said.

“It doesn’t matter if they have the capacity to do it. The real power comes from the use of data,” she said. “The real value of the information will be seen when states take action to make sure they are used.”

States, however, should be especially diligent in ensuring that student privacy is protected while building such data systems, said Joel R. Reidenberg, a professor of law at Fordham University School of Law and the academic director of the university’s Center on Law and Information Policy.

According to a study released by the center last month, some states have not taken adequate actions to safeguard sensitive information in student records, in some cases moving information from local to state agencies without regard to federal privacy laws. (“Data Systems Lack Privacy Safeguards,” November 4, 2009.)

“Our concern, from the research we did, is that the states are collecting on an identifiable basis what appears to be more extensive information than is necessary for what the states are trying to accomplish in measuring school accountability,” Mr. Reidenberg said.

A version of this article appeared in the December 02, 2009 edition of Education Week as Report Finds States on Course to Build Pupil-Data Systems

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Teaching Live Online Discussion Seat at the Table: How Can We Help Students Feel Connected to School?
Get strategies for your struggles with student engagement. Bring questions for our expert panel. Help students recover the joy of learning.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Science Webinar
Real-World Problem Solving: How Invention Education Drives Student Learning
Hear from student inventors and K-12 teachers about how invention education enhances learning, opens minds, and preps students for the future.
Content provided by The Lemelson Foundation

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal The Senate Gun Bill: What It Would Mean for School Safety, Mental Health Efforts
Details of a bipartisan Senate agreement on guns outline additional funding to support student mental health programs.
6 min read
Protesters take to the streets of downtown Detroit June 11 to call for new gun laws. One holds up a sign that says "policy and change."
Protesters call for new gun laws in Detroit's March for Our Lives event earlier this month.
KT Kanazawich for Education Week
Federal What Educators Need to Know About Senators' Bipartisan Deal on Guns, School Safety
In addition to gun restrictions, a tentative compromise would also fund mental health and school safety programs—but it faces hurdles.
4 min read
Protesters hold up a sign that shows the outline of a rifle struck through with a yellow line at a demonstration in support of stronger gun laws.
Protesters gather for the March For Our Lives rally in Detroit, among the demonstrations against gun violence held on the heels of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas.
KT Kanazawich for Education Week
Federal Senate Negotiators Announce a Deal on Guns, Breaking Logjam
The agreement offers modest gun curbs and bolstered efforts to improve school safety and mental health programs.
5 min read
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., speaks during a rally near Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 10, 2022, urging Congress to pass gun legislation. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Federal Education Secretary: 'Let's Transform Our Appreciation of Teachers to Action'
Miguel Cardona shared strategies to help recruit, develop, and retain effective teachers.
5 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the White House on April 27.
Susan Walsh/AP