States have improved, but can do more, when it comes to using student data in all aspects of education.

States have made unprecedented progress collecting longitudinal data in education, but they have not taken action to ensure data are used to improve student achievement, according to the Data Quality Campaign’s (DQC) sixth annual state analysis, Data for Action 2010, which tracks states’ progress toward a set of goals that will help states use educational data to the fullest.

When the DQC launched in 2005, no state had all 10 Essential Elements of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems. Now, 24 states report they have implemented all 10 elements, and every state has committed to implement them by September 2011. States that implement the 10 elements have the necessary information to understand what works in education and can allocate scarce resources accordingly to improve student achievement.

Those 10 elements are:

  • A unique statewide student identifier that connects student data across key databases across years
  • Student-level enrollment, demographic, and program participation information
  • The ability to match individual students’ test records from year to year to measure academic growth
  • Information on untested students and the reasons they were not tested
  • A teacher identifier system with the ability to match teachers to students
  • Student-level transcript information, including information on courses completed and grades earned
  • Student-level college readiness test scores
  • Student-level graduation and dropout data
  • The ability to match student records between the preK-12 and higher education systems
  • A state data audit system assessing data quality, validity and reliability

For more on school data use, see:

Student Information Systems: Making the Grade?

State data systems present privacy concerns

In spite of this progress, the elements on educational data that lag behind are also those that are most critical to current policy discussions. Seventeen states cannot link teacher and student data, 15 states do not collect course-taking information, and 11 states report the inability to link K-12 and postsecondary data. These states cannot inform critical policy questions about teacher effectiveness and college and career readiness despite the growing demand for answers.