Today, all eyes in education are trained on the bottom line—student achievement. It's not a new story, but it's happening in a new world.

The difference today is that educators are using technology to improve student achievement and, while they're at it, applying the same tools to improving the business side of education. School districts are borrowing tools from the corporate world and renovating policies and practices in the classroom and central office.

Ironically, the key ingredient is something that has been as common in schools as textbooks—data. Schools have collected and reported data on everything from...

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