America brims with education data and these days it seems everyone in education claims--or at least wants--to be guided by data. In A Byte at the Apple, leaders and scholars map the landscape of data providers and users and explores why what's supplied by the former too often fails to meet the needs of the latter. It documents the barriers to collecting good information, including well-meaning privacy laws and the maze of overlapping government units and agencies. Most important, it explores potential solutions--including a future system where a "backpack" of achievement information would accompany every student from place to place.
Among the book's main points:
America has made significant gains in education data.
No Child Left Behind, while much-criticized, has led to important strides in the creation of and demand for student achievement data. New technologies are making data entry, collection, analysis and dissemination vastly easier.
Yet many education-data systems remain archaic, cumbersome and non-comparable.
For instance, higher ed data typically don't align with elementary-secondary. Students who change schools get lost. Finance data are a mess. And some information, such as which pupils are taught by which teachers, isn't even gathered. Key definitions, such as "dropout" and "graduate" remain unsettled. Leaders also need better ways of digging through mounds of existing data to identify useful information that will actually tell them "what works" in education.
Barriers to quality data are tough but surmountable.
California has struggled to develop a statewide data repository, hampered by politics, bureaucracy, and human foible. Yet...