Use of Education Data at the Local Level

Mickey Muldoon

The pointy-headed analysts over at SRI International, working under
the auspices of the Dept of Ed, have released an interesting survey of
data systems in twelve nationally-representative school districts. The
message: goaded by NCLB and the broad pro-data consensus among
policymakers and district leaders, school districts are undeniably
collecting more information about their students and staff than before.
But they are not, on the whole, doing really interesting or innovative
things with the new data at their fingertips--at least, not yet. (DQC agrees.)
The study finds that while 99 percent of districts maintain some form
of “student data warehouse” on attendance, test scores, and grades, only
38 percent of them can link student performance to teacher
characteristics like experience and degree attainment. Only 42 percent
of districts can determine which curricular programs and strategies are
most or least effective at boosting performance within a given grade and
course. And only seven of the thirty-six case-study schools used
student performance to evaluate teachers. This report would see data
“dashboards” customized for the user (teacher, administrator, etc.),
integrated, and accompanied by better training sessions. And of course,
the data need to be more timely so as to remain relevant and useful.
Maybe this Dept-sponsored push will make it happen. Read it here.

Barbara Means, Christine Padilla, and Larry Gallagher
Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development
U.S. Department of Education
January 2010

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