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How 5 states are rocking education data

Annual report outlines state improvements in using education data to create equitable learning opportunities

States are on the right path when it comes to using real-time education data to inform teaching and learning, but they should continue taking critical steps to improve data use, according to a new report.

The Data Quality Campaign’s (DQC) Show Me the Data 2017 report highlights strides made by states in their education data reporting and ways they can make their report cards clearer and more useful so that parents, educators, community members, and policymakers have the information they need to make decisions that help all students excel.

The report cards in the report help show if schools are serving students equitably, and the information, including test scores and postsecondary enrollment, can give school leaders a look at school performance and pinpoint existing inequities.

Next page: Best education data practices from 5 states

“Without clear, understandable report cards, people are left in the dark,” said Paige Kowalski, executive vice president of DQC. “Parents need this data to ensure their child has the best possible education, communities need it to advocate for changes in their schools, and policymakers need it so they know how to direct resources. Every state should improve their report card if they’re going to meet their ambitious goals under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”

Because no state fully meets the education data needs of parents and community, the DQC’s report asks states to keep making progress and produce report cards that meet the needs of all stakeholders, including families, policymakers, and taxpayers.

The report also offers best practices and spotlights successful education data initiatives from various states:
• Illinois includes information about school culture and learning environment, as well as data about teacher collaboration, leader effectiveness, and family engagement. The inclusion of multiple data points provides a deeper understanding of what learning is like in every school.
• Virginia features information such as discipline rates, chronic absence, and postsecondary enrollment, with explanations accompanying each indicator. Data beyond student test scores can also be disaggregated by race and gender, helping to paint a fuller picture of school quality.
• New Mexico allows users to quickly gauge school performance through the use of clear summative ratings. Information in Spanish is easy to find and helps meet the needs of the state’s large Spanish-speaking population.
• Wisconsin clearly identifies priorities for schools in the state, such as student performance and student growth, ensuring report cards have meaningful information that helps parents and community members better understand the data.
• Louisiana eliminates confusion and frustration by making its report cards easy for the public to find. Users can find information on a specific school in just three clicks.

States have the building blocks in place to make their report cards more accessible and useful, and they don’t have to wait to make these improvements. In addition to learning from the strengths of their peers, there are three steps states can take to make concrete improvements to their education data report cards:
• Use plainer language and clean up acronyms to make it easier to understand.
• Disaggregate data to help illuminate achievement gaps and drive equitable outcomes.
• Work to better communicate their specific education priorities.

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Laura Ascione

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