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Many States Struggle To Link Student Test Data to Individual Teachers

Linking student test data to individual teachers is the biggest challenge of establishing data systems to improve student achievement, according to a new report from the United States Department of Education.

The report, "State Implementation of Reforms Promoted Under the Recovery Act," evaluated state-level adoption of educational reforms implemented under the Recovery Act in the years 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. The Recovery Act required state education agencies (SEAs) to commit to four key areas of reform in order to qualify for funding under the Act. One of those key areas was the establishment of data systems and use of that data to improve student performance. The other areas were adoption of Common Core State Standards, improved teacher effectiveness and support for low-performing schools.

The Recovery Act outlined four key indicators of state-level reform of data systems:

  • State operation of a longitudinal data system that included 12 core components;
  • State operation of a data system that had the ability to link teachers to student data;
  • SEA facilitation of educators' access to assessment data; and
  • Professional development or technical assistance provided by SEAs to support educators' use of assessment data.

Approximately two-thirds of SEAs reported one or more major challenges associated with state-level data system reforms. Of the four data system reform indicators, the second one was the most commonly reported challenge. Forty percent of SEAs reported that "current data systems make linking student test data to individual teachers difficult," and 39 percent reported "restrictions in rules and regulations on linking of student data to individual teachers."

But despite these challenges, 59 percent of SEAs were able to link teachers to student data by the end of the 2011 school year.

Implementing all 12 of the core components specified for data systems also seems to have been a challenge. In the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years, only 13 state education agencies managed to implement all 12. However, nearly all SEAs (48 out of 51) were able to implement three of the core data system components: yearly test records, information on students not tested and assessment of data quality, validity and reliability. But less than half of SEAs were able to implement data systems that contained information on students' transition from high school to postsecondary or information to determine student preparedness for postsecondary education. More than half of SEAs were able to implement the other core components.

The other two key indicators were widely implemented. Eighty-four percent of SEAs were able to facilitate educators' access to assessment data, and 78 percent provided professional development or technical assistance to support educators' use of assessment data.

The full report, "State Implementation of Reforms Promoted Under the Recovery Act," is available as a downloadable PDF from the Institute of Education Sciences site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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