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FOCUS ON PEOPLE: Creating a Data-Driven Culture a Necessary Step for States, Leaders, New DQC Report Finds

“States should be commended for their hard work building robust data systems. But it’s time to focus on the people side of the data equation—how this benefits teachers and students,” said Aimee Rogstad Guidera, executive director of the DQC.

States have made great strides in developing and implementing data systems in their school districts. Now that the technology infrastructure is in place, states need to take action to make the information gleaned from these data systems available and actionable for state and district leaders, educators, and education stakeholders, finds a new report from the Data Quality Campaign (DQC).

The report, Data for Action 2012: Focus on People to Change Data Culture, makes it clear that creating a data-driven culture starts at the top: leaders and policymakers must use the technology-driven data at their disposal to influence policy and action to improve educational outcomes. For this to happen, the data must be trusted and leaders and policymakers must be courageous enough to confront the problems illuminated from the data.

“States should be commended for their hard work building robust data systems. But it’s time to focus on the people side of the data equation—how this benefits teachers and students,” said Aimee Rogstad Guidera, executive director of the DQC. “State policymakers must actively support a culture in which all education stakeholders are actually using and learning from this crucial information to improve student achievement—not just using data for shame and blame.”

Data structures currently implemented around the nation provide raw numbers and statistics on everything from student attendance, graduation rates, scores on standardized tests, and more. The data can be broken down into three categories: (1) longitudinal (tracking students over a period of time); (2) actionable (user friendly); and (3) contextual (comparable, within a certain context).

According to the report, raw data can help educators improve teacher effectiveness, college and career readiness, increased matriculation rates, and increased postsecondary enrollment rates. When stakeholders are given tools to understand and comprehend the data, these outcomes are consistently seen. For example, in Kentucky, by implementing data systems and creating actionable plans for educators and policymakers to interpret and utilize the data, postsecondary enrollment increased from 50.9 percent in 2004 to 61.4 percent in 2010.

Since the DQC released a set of ten state actions to support effective data use in 2011, every state has taken at least one of the actions. Delaware has implemented nine of the ten action steps and provides a tangible example of how the data is transforming educational outcomes.

According to the report, the Delaware state education agency teams up with the U.S. Department of Labor to analyze data that reveals the types of skills training the state offers. The state is then able to calculate the number of K–12 students who enroll in postsecondary institutions and the number of people who obtain jobs in the fields in which they were trained. All of this helps Delaware see whether it is meeting its goal of preparing students and citizens for the demands of the workplace.

Although there have been marked improvements, especially in the case of Delaware, it is important to note that no state has adopted all ten of DQC’s actions. Specifically, states are lagging behind in a few key areas, such as being able to link data across state agencies, providing parents and other stakeholders with access to data obtained, and ensuring that educators know how to appropriately interpret and use the data.

The report cautions that it is not enough for states to have advanced, high-technology data structures in place. The information gleaned from them must be utilized so that policy reflects the numbers in a way that improves student outcomes. In order for states to achieve this data-driven culture, they must dedicate their leadership, policy, and resources to this effort.

“One thing is certain: we will not change the culture of education data use by focusing solely on systems or even policy,” the report states. “It is only by strengthening our focus on people and what they need that we will reach our goal of improving outcomes for the most important stakeholder: students.”

Read the full report at

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