How schools can track kids' progress under ESSA using data


The Data Quality Campaign wants to make the Every Student Succeeds Act more transparent.

“ESSA really is a data bill,” said Rachel Anderson, senior associate of policy and advocacy for the Data Quality Campaign. She and DQC’s Brennan McMahon Parton, associate director of state policy and advocacy, discussed ways that states can comply with ESSA and provide public reports that are timely and effective during a webinar Tuesday.

DQC officials believe that students excel when parents, educators and policymakers have the information to make decisions about their educational journey, and making data more transparent is an essential step. They encouraged states to “reset the conversation” and update their current data systems.

The campaign also encourages states to improve stakeholder engagement, not just as an ESSA compliance, but to make sure that data is working for students.

Officials want states to be transparent about the goals they have for students and have the data to back their progress. They also want states to provide educators and school leaders the training they need to properly use data and protect student data privacy.

“What’s new under ESSA is that there’s a focus on engaging parents, and producing and reporting more information that helps give people a more nuanced and contextual picture of how their schools are doing,” Anderson said.

Anderson said there are now more funds in state assessment grants to allow states to design local report cards that are user friendly and easily accessible to the public.

“The quality of information that states are providing really varies and some of it is pretty hard to find,” McMahon Parton said. “In one state, it took 32 clicks to get to the data.”

“In an era where you can pick a restaurant or the person that you’re going to date using the internet,” she added, “finding out clear, trustworthy information about your student’s school shouldn’t take that much digging.”

States are now required to engage parents in the development of their report cards. ESSA also requires that states include additional information that will be useful to the community, including data on extracurricular activities.

“It’s not often that the law prescribes that we do something really powerful and meaningful, but this focus on stakeholder engagement, and particularly on parent engagement, is really a triumph of this all,” McMahon Parton said.

ESSA now requires that states disaggregate data and cross-tab information so that viewers can understand the more nuanced populations that schools are serving, Anderson said.

States are encouraged to tailor their data systems to meet the needs of their specific demographics, and include accommodations like paper versions of the data for those who do not have computer access, or translations for non-English speakers.

“We really believe that the Every Student Succeeds Act in many ways is a data bill,” McMahon Parton said. “It reinforces the legacy of No Child Left Behind that we want to use information to ensure that every student, no matter their zip code, has a high quality education that can lead them to great things in life.”

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