To the Editor:
A Dec. 23, 2014, Inside School Research blog post, “Report Questions Sustainability of Longitudinal Student-Data Systems,” outlined the findings of a U.S. Government Accountability Office report exposing gaps in the ability of states to match individual students’ education records to their later results in the workforce. It is a critically important story for those of us who know that the power of valid data can be used to guide continuous improvement in teaching and learning (and the policies that support them).
When Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems were first proposed, supporters suggested that they would be a solution for fixing what was wrong with education. Unfortunately, merely having the data does not fix the problem. Even knowing the problem does not fix the problem.
The solution side of the data equation is the next big frontier. While the GAO report raised some important caution flags, it is still a pretty big feat to capture and use key data sets to advance some of our most important education goals. For example, according to the Data Quality Campaign, 45 states can provide feedback to high schools on how their students fared after graduation. The GAO reports that 29 states use longitudinal-data systems to flag individual students at risk of dropping out of school. This is progress, but we cannot give up or slow down. The GAO report highlights remaining blind spots in realizing a data system that follows students from childhood all the way through K-12, in higher education, and into the workforce. We must continue this imperative work.
Brad C. Phillips
Institute for Evidenced-Based Change
San Diego, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the January 29, 2015 edition of Education Week as Data Alone Cannot Solve Education’s Problems