Blog: Education by the Numbers

Data systems to identify dropouts proliferate but usefulness unclear

Sarah D. Sparks attended the same NCES STATS-DC 2013 session about dropout indicators for first graders, which I wrote about recently here and a related piece here.Sparks’s piece for Education Week, published July 29, 2013, includes the national context that 28 states are now using early-warning data systems to help identify potential high-school dropouts, citing a count by the Data Quality Campaign.

An interesting discussion follows in the comments section. Lots of money and time are being spent on these new fancy data systems, but a question remains as to whether data mining for dropouts is useful. Are we really identifying lots of troubled students that teachers are unaware of? And what do we do about preventing someone from dropping out once we’ve identified their susceptibility? Perhaps we should spend more time on data-driven studies for drop out interventions.


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