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States get mixed report card on using data to improve education

Kenneth Corbin | Nov. 21, 2014
School districts across the country are beginning to embrace data-driven strategies to improve accountability and transparency in the public education sector, but a new study finds that progress among the states has been widely uneven.

More States Need to Incorporate Teacher Performance and Training Info

Still, the DQC's report found other areas where states have been moving more slowly. For instance, the organization has been advocating for data programs that would incorporate information about teacher performance into training programs, but just 22 states said that they do so in this year's survey (though that number is up from six in 2011).

Likewise, the report notes that currently, only 11 states are offering "timely, role-based access" to student information for parents, teachers and administrators.

Security Remains a Roadblock

Security has been one roadblock. Student data is one of the more sensitive assets that states preside over, and without the proper security and privacy protocols, officials have been reluctant to allow that information to move outside the vault.

[ Related: Schools Keep Track of Students' Online Behavior, But Do Parents Even Know? ]

But the DQC identified 110 bills introduced in statehouses this year that aimed to protect student data. Of those, 30 were signed into law, including one in Colorado that established provisions for how data should be secured and shared, and also carried transparency provisions for contracts with third-party vendors who handle student information.

"That keeps all of us on our toes as far as making sure those agreements adequately protect student information," says Dan Domagala, CIO of the Colorado Department of Education.

All in all, Guidera credits many states for effecting a cultural shift within their educational bureaucracies to move their data policies beyond "a box-checking exercise" and for beginning to treat student and school information as an asset that can help improve student performance throughout the grade school years and beyond.

"We believe this is because this has been the greatest change for state agencies," she says. "Traditionally, state agencies have been seen as compliance officers around data."


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