A year-old campaign that seeks to improve the collection and use of data to drive school reform appears to be bearing results: States around the nation are making progress in building longitudinal data systems to support instruction, according to the Data Quality Campaign (DQC).

On the first anniversary of its launch, the Data Quality Campaign has released a report highlighting states’ successes in building longitudinal data systems. Over the past year, the DQC–a national partnership that aims to improve the quality, accessibility, and use of data in education–has highlighted the power of developing and using data systems that follow individual students’ progress over time as a key tool to improve student achievement, and its work now seems to be paying off.

As a result of its efforts, the group says …

“42 states (up from 37 last year) now report having a unique student identifier in place–an integral part of a longitudinal data system;

“Nine states have eight or nine of the 10 essential elements the Data Quality Campaign has identified as necessary building blocks for a longitudinal data system. No state reports having all 10 elements, but only six states have three or fewer;

“36states have put into place an audit system to ensure high-quality data, which is one of the 10 essential elements the DQC has identified;

“26 states indicate they have or are working on building data warehouses; and

“28 states have some form of web-based data and analysis tools available for local educators.

The progress made over the past year is encouraging, the group says, but there is still more work to be done.

“As we work to provide a high-quality education, our hopeful vision of the future requires us to take a hard look at the past,” said U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings in a statement. “By measuring children’s performance over time, we can determine how best to educate the next generation. The Data Quality Campaign is committed to making reliable and relevant longitudinal data accessible to all. Its member partners include some of the nation’s most dedicated and serious educational organizations. I am confident that with their help, policy makers will clearly see the educational challenges ahead, so they can make the very best decisions to meet them.”

Managed by the National Center for Educational Accountability and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the DQC hopes to encourage all 50 states to implement statewide longitudinal data systems for education by 2009 (see story: http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=5991).

The campaign says educators and policy makers need to know if students are being prepared not only for college, but also for long-term success in the workplace by matching the academic and employment records of individual students. Schools also must be able to transfer student data across states electronically using common data standards and definitions, the group adds.

Together with national and state partners, DQC is working to ensure that statewide longitudinal data systems are completed and widely accessible so they can be used to inform important discussions about improving America’s schools. Without longitudinal data, the group says, these conversations are limited–but with them, educators can more easily identify which schools produce the strongest academic growth for their students; calculate their state’s graduation rate; and determine which high school performance indicators (enrollment in rigorous courses, performance on state tests, and so on) are the best predictors of students’ success in college or the workplace.

In its second year, the campaign will focus on promoting the use of longitudinal student-level data for accountability purposes and for tailoring instructional programs and policies to individual students’ needs, while continuing to support state efforts to build longitudinal data systems.

“Taking on one of the most critical issues in education reform–the collection, availability, and use of high-quality education data to improve student achievement–the campaign has already made real progress. The issue has moved front and center in states and nationally; states are accelerating their adoption and use of longitudinal data systems to drive improvement; and the partnership that is the campaign’s hallmark is getting key education reform organizations singing from the same hymnal,” said Marlene Seltzer, president and CEO of the nonprofit group Jobs for the Future.

Links:

Data Quality Campaign
http://www.dataqualitycampaign.org

National Center for Educational Accountability
http://www.nc4ea.org

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
http://www.gatesfoundation.org