Opinion
IT Infrastructure Opinion

Education as a Data-Driven Enterprise

By Laura Sanford — March 21, 2011 | Corrected: February 21, 2019 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Corrected: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the Data Quality Campaign as part of a larger organization. The Data Quality Campaign is a Washington-based nonprofit group that promotes and tracks the use of education data in policymaking.

We all agree our nation’s future success depends on the ability of our students to compete and achieve in the global economy. For the United States to remain a world leader, we must ensure that our students graduate from high school prepared for the future challenges of continuing education and the workplace. But, frankly, we will not succeed in transporting every child to that destination if we don’t invest in better data to guide our education policies and practices.

No one is watching this move toward using data to improve student achievement more closely than America’s business community. We know firsthand that no organization—for profit, nonprofit, governmental—can reach its goals without data to inform its decisions at every point. Our future hinges on the ability of our schools to produce the talent and leadership that our companies will require in the next generation. Business leaders see the value of data in our own worlds and know how promising it can be when data is put to use to make real and positive change. Data brings to light our successes and failures. We can’t afford to not use this information—in the corporate world and the education sector.

The importance of data is a key topic for the policymakers, educators, and business and community leaders gathered this week in Washington for the Building a Grad Nation Summit. As the summit aims to inspire a national movement to reach the goal of a 90 percent high school graduation rate by 2020, it is clear that much recent progress has been made, thanks to a greater commitment at multiple levels—local, state, and federal—to creating a more data-driven education system. Attaining the double-digit growth necessary to reach our goal will be closely tied to fully implementing and utilizing data systems to foster individual and collective student achievement.

The last five years have seen unprecedented progress at the state level in building data systems that collect rich and vital information on student academic progress—from the courses taken and grades received to assessment scores and attendance rates. Almost every state now has the technical infrastructure to collect high-quality data; however, most states don’t fully utilize this information. To fully leverage the systems in place, we need to change from a culture of collecting data for compliance and evaluation to a culture of using data for constant student improvement. As Aimee Guidera, the director of the Data Quality Campaign, says, “We need to use data as a flashlight, not a hammer.”

Our country still does a better job of tracking a package than it does a student, but we're on the cusp of transformation."

As a new white paper—commissioned by AT&T and written by the Alliance for Excellent Education, Civic Enterprises, and the Data Quality Campaign—emphasized, three developments in education data are positive signs that the education sector is in the midst of this transformation into a data-driven enterprise: longitudinal student data; early-warning data and intervention systems; and college- and career-readiness indicators. It is clear that data collection and use don’t exist solely for the benefit of faceless statistical studies, but that they can have an immediate impact on those on the front lines: teachers, parents, and students.

Imagine the possibilities. A group of middle school teachers can develop individualized intervention programs for incoming students pre-identified as at risk for dropping out because effective data systems are in place to track attendance, behavior, and performance. Parent-teacher conferences can take on new meaning as teachers gain the ability to show parents how their child’s academic progress compares with that of others in the same grade at that school, in the same state, nationally, and even internationally.

The AT&T Foundation has monitored this topic very closely. We’ve seen a lot of improvement, but as with all of the important topics touched by this week’s summit, there is still work to be done. Our country still does a better job of tracking a package than it does a student, but we’re on the cusp of transformation. We must maintain the momentum. The data systems are now largely in place; the next frontier is making sure they are fully utilized to provide accurate, actionable, and consistent data—and to ensure it becomes part of the culture in our schools.

Ultimately, data serves as a vital gauge to inform our journey in preparing every child for success in the global economy. This information alone is not the answer; it is valuable only if used by those charting the trip. Students, educators, parents, and policymakers can’t be informed stakeholders unless they understand how to access this information and use it. This is our challenge: to build demand and use of this valuable information now that it has been collected. We will never meet the goals of the Grad Nation campaign unless we utilize all the information at our fingertips. What a lost opportunity if we do not.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 30, 2011 edition of Education Week

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
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.
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
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls

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

IT Infrastructure From Our Research Center What the Massive Shift to 1-to-1 Computing Means for Schools, in Charts
1-to-1 computing has expanded at a rate few could have imagined prior to the pandemic, creating opportunities and problems.
1 min read
Illustration of laptop computer displaying bar graph.
Illustration by F. Sheehan/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty and E+)
IT Infrastructure Internet on School Buses: FCC Eyes E-Rate Change to Expand Access
FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel announced a proposal that would allow the use of federal E-rate funding for Wi-Fi in school buses.
2 min read
A Brownsville Independent School District bus acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot for students needing to connect online for distance learning at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year in the Texas school system.
A Brownsville Independent School District bus acts as a WI-FI hotspot for students needing to connect online for distance learning on the first day of class Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in the parking lot of the Margaret M. Clark Aquatic Center in Brownsville, Texas. The bus is one of 20 hotspots throughout the city to help students have access to their online classes as part of the remote start to the school year due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald via AP
IT Infrastructure Stopping Cyberattacks Is Top Priority for Ed-Tech Leaders. But Many Underestimate the Risk
Most K-12 district tech leaders rate common cybersecurity threats as just low or medium risk, survey shows.
4 min read
Images shows a symbolic lock on a technical background.
iStock/Getty
IT Infrastructure Spotlight Spotlight on Infrastructure Modernization
This Spotlight will help you grasp the reality of school infrastructure, parent privacy concerns, watchdog recommendations and more.