Data For Action 2013 shows how states are beginning to make more data-informed actions

data-campaignStates have made immense progress in collecting student data, communicating the importance of using such data, and in emphasizing the need to keep student information safe and secure, according to the ninth annual Data for Action (DFA) report from the Data Quality Campaign (DQC).

This year’s report “highlights, yet again, the incredible leadership that states are demonstrating… [states are] really making progress on using data for continuous improvement,” said Aimee Guidera, DQC founder and executive director.

The biggest change evident in this year’s report is states’ focus on getting appropriate access of the correct data to the right people, at the right time, with the end goal of improving student achievement, Guidera said.

(Next page: States making much progress)

For the first time, two states–Arkansas and Delaware–have met all 10 recommended State Actions.

Fifteen states reached eight or nine actions, which the report attributes to policy changes that drive demand for data in order to answer policy questions and inform other educational efforts.

States receive federal funding to create and implement data systems, and 41 states support these systems through state funds and state-created policy. Forty-three states have developed governance structures, and 46 have created publicly-available reports on school systems and groups of students.

Teachers in 35 states have access to data about students in their classrooms, up from 28 states in 2011’s report.

Though states are making strides, most states gauge whether their K-12 students are well-prepared for the workforce, because only 19 states have secure links between K-12 and workforce data.

“The biggest leap has been in providing greater access to information across the board,” Guidera said. “There are lots of conversations about personalizing learning. Thanks to states’ advances, not only have they made progress in building longitudinal infrastructure, equally important is that states have taken the steps they need to ensure that they have access to information. The promise of personalized learning is becoming a reality.”

As conversations about student data become more widespread, so do concerns about safeguarding student information.

To that end, state policymakers should aim to define authority and accountability for decision-making and data security; document laws, policies, and decisions related to data management; ensure that states have the capacity and resources to implement and support policies and procedures; and offer periodic privacy training.

For instance, Oklahoma’s Student DATA Act sets new procedures and protections regarding student data collection and use. Prior to the legislation, which requires public reporting and limits what data can be collected and how it can be shared, student data privacy was handled within the Oklahoma State Department of Education and without public process mandates.

In order to continue supporting states as they strive for effective data gathering and use, DFA recommends continued work in three critical areas:

  1. Outlining the purpose of data collection and who has access to it
  2. Establishing “governance structures that provide clear authority and responsibility for data collection, sharing, and storage oversight”
  3. Creating guidelines for security and privacy protocols and policies

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a series on educational data. Read Part 1 here.