The Dashboard highlights key education data across 16 indicators.

The federal Education Department (ED) has launched a new website that aims to provide easy access to key state and national education data for all school stakeholders.

The United States Education Dashboard, which debuted Jan. 24, highlights the progress being made across the country at every level of public education, and it encourages communities to engage in a conversation about their schools, ED says.

Available at http://dashboard.ed.gov, the site reports on several indicators of whether the country is making progress toward President Obama’s goal that, by 2020, the United States once again will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

“The Dashboard highlights both our successes and challenges, while providing a new level of transparency [in communicating education data] that is absolutely essential to our efforts to accelerate student achievement,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a statement. “We hope communities will use this information to determine where we need to focus on reforms and investments in education.”

Users can view indicators of the nation’s performance in education, gauge their state’s progress, and see how their state is performing compared to others. The initial version of the Dashboard contains a set of 16 indicators, or education data points, that range from participation in early childhood education through completion of postsecondary education.

Most of the indicators that ED holds up as important are data points that few would quibble with, such as the percentage of eighth graders who were judged proficient in reading (30 percent) and math (33 percent) on the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress; the percentage of freshmen who graduate from high school within four years (74.9 percent); and the percentage of the nation’s 18- to 24-year-olds who are enrolled in college (44.7 percent).

For each of these indicators, an arrow points up, down, or from side to side to indicate how the data are trending. Users of the website can drill down further to see state comparisons and other information.

An indicator under the heading “Teachers and Leaders,” however, reveals the number of states whose school districts use student test-score data as part of their teacher evaluation systems—a practice that is far more controversial.

The Dashboard also includes a section called “An Excellent Education for All,” which provides data on whether subgroups of students are performing sufficiently. And it shows how high-poverty school districts are funded compared to low-poverty districts in their state. The website allows users to download customized reports for further analyses.

ED says it will update the Dashboard’s data continually, as well as enhance the tools on the site—and it encourages users to provide their feedback on the Dashboard, so its functionality can be enhanced in updates and subsequent versions.

(Editor’s note: For more information about using data to improve education, see our Special Report: “Advanced analytics: Helping educators approach the ideal.”)