States make strides in collecting education data

States are implementing robust data systems that could inform tough education decisions, but they need to do more with the data they collect, the Data Quality Campaign says.

Although states have made strong progress increasing their capacity to build and use longitudinal data systems, they aren’t yet helping educators, parents, and other stakeholders use the data to inform decisions to improve student achievement, according to the Data Quality Campaign’s seventh annual state analysis, Data for Action 2011.

More states than ever—36, up from zero in 2005 and 25 states in 2010—have implemented all of DQC’s 10 Essential Elements of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, and 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have implemented eight or more. This means that, without exception, every state in the country has robust longitudinal data extending beyond test scores that could inform today’s toughest education decisions.

Those 10 elements include:

1. A unique student identifier (52 states/territories)
2. Student-level enrollment, demographic, and program participation information (52)
3. The ability to match individual students’ test records from year to year to measure academic growth (52)
4. Information on untested students and the reasons why they were not tested (51)
5. A teacher identifier system with the ability to match teachers to specific students (44)
6. Student-level transcript data, including information on courses completed and grades earned (41)
7. Student-level college readiness test scores (50)
8. Student-level graduation and dropout data (52)
9. The ability to match student records between the P-12 and postsecondary systems (49)
10. A state data audit system assessing data quality, validity, and reliability (52)

“States have worked so diligently to build their capacity to collect and use quality education data, but we will see improved student achievement only when all stakeholders—from parents to policy makers—actually use these data to make informed decisions,” said Aimee Guidera, executive director of the Data Quality Campaign. “The need is urgent: State policy makers are right now in the process of allocating scarce resources based on what works to help students, and they cannot do that well without data.”

Despite the huge progress in building longitudinal data systems, no state has taken all of the 10 State Actions to Ensure Effective Data Use, which create a culture in which stakeholders use the rich data states now collect to improve education.

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