Policy & Data

ESSA Plans Give Preview of Promises for State Ed Data Usage

The Data Quality Campaign has scrutinized every state's Every Student Succeeds Act plan, finding that "while approaches to student success vary, the commitment to data use is clear." An article by DQC in The 74 outlined three "major ways" states are "deploying data to meet their education goals."

First, states are supporting districts and schools in their efforts to use data. Without data, wrote Brennan McMahon Parton, director of policy and advocacy for the nonprofit, "local leaders are left to make decisions based on hunches or how things have been done in the past -- and they won't know whether investments they've made in supporting student learning are working."

In their ESSA plans:

  • 49 states have committed to delivering training and other supports tied to data analysis and use to education entities;
  • 38 states have said they'll invest in data-based tools or monitoring processes for examining school data; and
  • 15 states will collect data for continuous updating of evidence to back school interventions.

As an example, DQC pointed to Georgia, which is using its existing P20 Collaboratives, regional partnerships, to deliver professional learning to educators as part of increasing their understanding of data usage for continuous improvement.

Second, states are using data in their education agencies to track and encourage progress.

  • 40 states have committed to updating long-term goals based on the data;
  • 36 states have stated they'll improve data quality; and
  • 28 states have promised to increase the ability of their state education agencies to support accountability and school improvement.

In Washington, for example, the state's Office of System and School Improvement will work with the Office of Special Education to create a new data review process that will result in district templates. These will be used in analyzing student data to understand the impact of new work approaches and policies.

Third, states are attempting to increase their transparency, particularly in their communications with families and communities about school improvement efforts.

  • 32 states have pledged to update state report cards with information that will help readers gain a "more complete picture of school and student performance"; and
  • The same number of states have also said they'll engage stakeholders throughout implementation efforts.

Delaware, for instance, will "publicly report" additional measures such as discipline rates and the results of surveys among parents, teachers and students on school climate.

While these "themes" are essential, wrote McMahon Parton, she encouraged states to persist with their focus on those "policies and practices policies and practices that make sure those closest to students have the data they need and the time and skills to use it."

The article is openly available on The 74 website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.