Data & Accountability

Overview

Data & Accountability

From test scores to teacher salaries, from graduation rates to grade-point averages, the education world is full of data. The federal No Child Left Behind law, signed in 2002, created an unprecedented demand for detailed information about students and schools. No longer are public schools judged simply by average test scores for all students. The law requires states, school districts and campuses to break out (“disaggregate,” in education-speak) test scores by race, gender, English proficiency, socioeconomic status and more.

From test scores to teacher salaries, from graduation rates to grade-point averages, the education world is full of data. The federal No Child Left Behind law, signed in 2002, created an unprecedented demand for detailed information about students and schools. No longer are public schools judged simply by average test scores for all students. The law requires states, school districts and campuses to break out (“disaggregate,” in education-speak) test scores by race, gender, English proficiency, socioeconomic status and more. Students in every group must meet the same academic standards.At the same time, people want to know which individual teachers have the most success working with various groups of students. 

The demand for data is growing in higher education, too. Parents, policymakers and taxpayers want to know which college freshmen need remedial education. They want to know how many students graduate on time, and whether graduates find good jobs. In both K-12 and higher education, some political leaders and others want to track academic performance with spending to see which schools and colleges seem to provide the best bang for the academic buck. This Topics section examines what this proliferation of data means for education reporters and offers links to key data resources.

This national push for accountability in education means that schools and colleges must first collect lots of useful, timely and precise data. Then, they must analyze and use that data – that is, make good decisions based on evidence — all with an eye toward improving student success. 

Here’s how Jeffrey Wayman, assistant professor of education at the University of Texas at Austin, describes the goal on his Data Use website: “If offered in a useful form, such data can help teachers, principals and other educational personnel learn more about their students, improve their teaching craft, and ultimately impact a variety of educational outcomes.”

When the Data Quality Campaign, a national coalition advocating for better data, formed in 2005, no states had extensive longitudinal databases for education. The campaign created “10 essential elements” it deemed the state data systems should have. By 2011, the group reported that 49 states (all but Montana) have eight or more of the elements. Now the group is focusing on what states should do with all of that data.

Aimee Guidera, the campaign’s executive director, says: “The need is urgent: state policymakers need to allocate scarce resources based on what works to help students, and they cannot do that without data.”

Sources of data

Federal, state and local agencies now keep a wealth of education data. At the federal level, one of the best sources is the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education. The center publishes annual reports (namely the Condition of Education and the Digest of Education Statistics) with state and national education trends on student enrollment and demographics, school staffing, education funding, graduation and dropout rates, and much more. The center also keeps searchable and downloadable databases, such as the Common Core of Data (for K-12 education) and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (for higher ed). While the information at NCES is comprehensive, it’s also often dated, lagging two years behind.

State education agencies also offer a trove of data on student achievement (test scores from state exams, SATs, ACTs, Advanced Placement), graduation and dropout rates, student demographics, school funding, teacher salaries and staffing levels, and more. Some states put many databases online so they’re easily downloaded, while other states may not readily post such information — and that means reporters will need to specifically request it.

School districts also keep data on student test scores, employee salaries, budgets and the like. Again, the type and availability of information vary by district.

Keep in mind that federal privacy laws, namely the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA), restricts disclosure of individual student education records. In practical terms, that means a journalist can’t ask a school district or state agency for a list of student names with their race, gender and test scores. But a journalist can ask for student-level data with all identifying information (names, social security numbers, etc.) removed. Depending on the state, education agencies may even redact information in particular for small subgroups of students (for instance, test scores for the only four white, female students in a school, under the theory someone could still deduce the individual students’ scores).

Controversies, challenges and caveats

As schools and education agencies are able to collect powerful data, and they’re able to analyze it with more sophisticated tools, controversies have risen.  Some school systems around the country rate teachers based on how much academic growth students made while in their classrooms. These “value-added” models look at which teachers are the most (and least) effective with their students by these measures. Some education leaders want to tie teacher pay or raises to their students’ academic growth, instead of compensating them solely on their education credentials and years of experience. Skeptics say the value-added models have too much statistical error to rate individual teachers accurately.

There can be other problems with education data. If students or their teachers cheat on state exams, the test scores (and everything they’re based on, such as state academic ratings) become meaningless. If schools don’t accurately report the reasons students leave school, then dropout and graduation rates aren’t accurate. Some colleges have been accused of reporting false or exaggerated data to U.S. News & World Report so they do better in the magazine’s annual college rankings. Journalists, and anyone else who uses data, need to ask questions about data when they see red flags.

With so much emphasis on data, some experts advise that journalists, policy makers and others should also examine things that can’t be easily measured — classroom observations of students and teachers, portfolios of student work, parent involvement, and school culture. And we don’t have sufficient data for all students, such as those who are exempt from state exams, or part-time college students who don’t count in the official graduation rates.

In the classroom, meanwhile, educators face the challenge of taking all of the data on students and using it well. The research isn’t yet extensive on the use of data to improve instruction or make decisions about teachers or students, but the research that is available shows that districts need to offer extensive training to principals and teachers to make the data useful. If educators don’t receive the training, they won’t use the data.

“The greatest perceived area of need among districts is for models of how to connect student data to instructional practice,” a U.S. Department of Education study found in 2010. “Districts want examples of how to identify which practices work best for which students and how to adapt instructional strategies to meet the needs of individual students.” 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Standing Out On Social Media

Today’s post features guest blogger Michelle Gininger, media relations and outreach manager at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, who attended EWA’s National Seminar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville last month.

Are you ready to take your social-media initiatives to a new level? Do you want to get beyond the “press release” tweet and the “come to our event” Facebook post?

Seminar

Diving Into Data Workshop

Data journalism is more than just reporting on numbers.  It’s taking the records of a half-million students and uncovering alarming absentee rates. It’s tracking the attrition of students from neighborhood schools.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Common Core: Angles on Assessments

Jacqueline King speaks at the 67th National Seminar.

The current generation of assessments being taken by students across the country is something like a bad boyfriend. 

That’s according to Jacqueline King of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, who made the point at EWA’s National Seminar held last month at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. When a better guy (or test) comes along, she continued, it’s hard to take it seriously.

Report

Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future

Marking the 60th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v Board of Education, the UCLA’s Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles assessed the nation’s progress in addressing school segregation, and found that–contrary to many claims–the South has not gone back to the level of segregation before Brown. It has, however, lost all of the additional progress made after l967, but is still the least segregated region for black students. New statistics show a vast transformation of the nation’s school population since the civil rights era.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

U.S. Students and PISA: How Much Do International Rankings Matter?

EWA’s 67th National Seminar starts Sunday at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, which makes this a great time to catch up on your background reading for some of the sessions. Some of the issues we’ll be talking about is how education reporters can better use student data in their stories, and the finer points of comparing achievement by U.S. students and their international counterparts. For background reading, here’s my post from December on the international PISA assessment.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Highs and Lows of High School Graduation Rates

Amid the excitement over the news this week that the nation’s high school graduation rate has hit 80 percent for the first time, some important questions still need to be answered. Among them: What are the states that saw the largest gains doing right, and how can the momentum be ramped up to make sure more minority, special education, and low-income students earn their diplomas?

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

High School Graduation Rates Improve Slightly

New data shows that the four-year high school graduation rates of Latino students are steadily increasing, but still lag the national average. 

The newly released report from the National Center for Education Statistics examined four-year rates in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Between those graduation years the rate rose for all students from 79 percent to 80 percent. 

The rate for Latino students rose from 71 percent in 2010-11 to 73 percent in 2011-12.

Report

The Effect of ESEA Waiver Plans on High School Graduation Rate Accountability

Based on an extensive analysis of state waiver plans, this report shows that recent progress in holding schools accountable for how many students they graduate from high school—the ultimate goal of K–12 education—may be slowed in some states based on waivers recently granted under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The report includes a review of approved waiver plans submitted by thirty-four states and the District of Columbia.

Post

American Statistical Association Statement on Value-Added Models
Use of VAM for Educational Assessment

Many states and school districts have adopted Value-Added Models (VAMs) as part of educational accountability systems. The goal of these models, which are also referred to as Value-Added Assessment (VAA) Models, is to estimate
effects of individual teachers or schools on student achievement while accounting for differences in student background. VAMs are increasingly promoted or mandated as a component in high-stakes decisions such as determining
compensation, evaluating and ranking teachers, hiring or dismissing teachers, awarding tenure, and closing schools.

Post

Early Learning: Kindergarten Online Database
State-by-State Policies and Requirements

Kindergarten entrance age

In half of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, students must turn age 5 by the end of September to attend kindergarten.
Nineteen states requires students to turn age 5 on or before Sept. 1.

Kindergarten attendance requirement

Fifteen states plus D.C. require children to attend kindergarten at age five or require kindergarten attendance prior to enrolling in first grade.
Thirty-five states do not require kindergarten attendance.

Compulsory school age

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Brown Center Report: Common Core, Homework and Shanghai’s Success

The third installment of the Brown Center Report on Public Education is out from the Brookings Institution, and author Tom Loveless provides plenty of food for thought in three key areas: the potential effectiveness of the new Common Core State Standards; whether American students are being saddled with  significantly more homework; and an examination of Shanghai’s reputation for producing some of the best 15-year-old math students in the world.  

Blog: The Educated Reporter

SXSWedu: Education Ideas ‘Big and Bright’ in Austin

I’m in Austin for the next few days at the SXSWedu conference, which will bring together big thinkers, educators, and entrepreneurs to talk about latest philosophies, approaches, and technology reshaping the business of schooling. I’ve packed my boots, my trendy glasses, and plenty of extra notebooks that I fully expect to fill up with Big Ideas. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

States That Spend The Least On Students Set To Grow The Most

Advanced math students solve a problem set at Glendale High School in Glendale, Calif. (Photo credit: Mikhail Zinshteyn)

New projections on student enrollment from the federal government hint at the financial pressure many states will face as their student populations rise considerably in the next decade. 

The data, released this week by the National Center on Education Statistics, forecast that the nation’s number of public school students from prekindergarten through high school will grow by 7 percent between 2011 and 2022. Leading the charge are states in the Western and Southern parts of the United States.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Kansas Rep. Wants to Track Students’ Immigration Status

A Kansas state representative wants to begin asking children who enroll in public schools for proof of citizenship or legal presence in the United States.

Republican Rep. Allan Rothlisberg said that he wants to track how much money is spent on educating undocumented immigrants.

Even if he is successful, the 1982 Plyler v. Doe decision concluded that all children are entitled to a free public education, no matter their status. Rothlisberg said he is aware that schools must follow the law.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Beyond Teachers: Who Else Is Your District Employing?

Credit: Flickr/ecastro

You may know that teachers make up roughly half of the education staff in school districts, but who are the other employees on the rolls? To provide a clearer picture, I broke down data from the U.S. Department of Education on district staffing to visualize this often-overlooked slice of the workforce.

Key Coverage

Immense Unease Over Advertisers Nabbing Student Data: Poll

The poll found that while only 37 percent of the public has “seen, read, or heard” “some” or “a great deal” about schools collecting, storing and sharing information, including age, weight and grades, 90 percent are “somewhat” or “very” concerned about private companies having access to student data.

Reporter Guide

Using Polls in Education Reporting

Polling isn’t exclusively the province of political reporters. A handful of national surveys released each year focus on education, including the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll about public attitudes toward education and MetLife’s annual survey of teachers. There’s also often polling done for statewide education-related elections, such as ballot measures or state superintendent races, and, periodically, by news outlets and advocacy organizations on various education-related issues.

Report

Education Longitudinal Study of 2002: A First Look at 2002 High School Sophomores 10 Years Later

This First Look presents findings from the third, and final, follow-up survey of the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002). ELS:2002 provides a wealth of information from multiple sources (tested achievement, questionnaire, and administrative records) about the factors and circumstances related to the performance and social development of the American high school student over time. This report draws on ELS:2002 data collected in 2012 to describe the outcomes of the cohort at about age 26, approximately 10 years after they were high school sophomores.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Today: EWA Webinar on Student Data and Privacy

As more school districts share data with parents and teachers, privacy advocates warn that they run the risk of violating students’ privacy. How big of a concern is it? Should parental rights trump educators’ efforts to track students? What should the federal role be?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

‘Nation’s Report Card:’ Urban Districts Making Long-Range Gains

Results are out for the 21 urban school districts that participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” and there are encouraging 10-year trends of overall improvement in reading and math in grades 4 and 8.At the same time, gaps persist among students from low-income families and their more affluent peers, for English language learners, and for many minority students when compared with their Asian and white classmates.(For a breakdown of the results, <a href=”http

Multimedia

Ten Takeaways on Where States Stand on Common Core

Ten Takeaways on Where States Stand on Common Core

An intensive survey of state officials by the Center on Education Policy offers insight into the challenges facing states as they implement Common Core State Standards.
Topics covered include how states are working with higher education institutions, gearing up for assessments, and preparing teachers and principals for the transition.

Speakers: Diane Stark Rentner, Center for Education Policy; Maria Voles Ferguson, Center on Education Policy; Caroline Hendrie, Education Writers Association (moderator)

Blog: Education by the Numbers

Shelf space for books at home predicts educational outcomes

A fascinating blog post, “Does Poverty Cause Low Achievement?“, by Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute cautions researchers against using poverty or family income when crunching numbers to come up with education policies. He argues that poverty in and of itself doesn’t cause low achievement. And flawed educational research conclusions have been made by using poverty in data analyses.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Polls Show Americans Frustrated With State of Education

New Polls Show Americans Frustrated With State of Education

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, EWA’s Emily Richmond talks with Phi Delta Kappa’s Bill Bushaw about a new Gallup/PDK poll on attitudes toward public education. Watch it here!

The PDK/Gallup poll generated some media buzz, and when viewed alongside two other education polls released this week, reveals a populace that has an ambivalent view on the state of U.S. schools. 

Catch up with news coverage of the polls’ results and responses from stakeholders below:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Government Report Suggests Racial Achievement Gap Narrowing

A new national study conducted by the federal government shows the achievement gap between white students and minorities has narrowed among nine and 13 year-olds since the 1970s, yet has remained mostly flat among 17 year-olds.

Released by the makers of the gold standard of student assessments, National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), the newly published findings are part of an ongoing study that measure students’ understanding of mathematics and reading.

Below is a sampling of the press coverage.

Webinar

School’s (Still) In: Making the Most of Summer Learning
1 hour

While students are celebrating the start of the long summer break, there’s a significant tradeoff for the three months of leisure – on average, students will return to school in the fall a month behind where they performed in the spring. And the learning loss is even greater for low-income students who were already behind their more affluent peers. In this EWA Webinar, we examine how districts are successfully combating summer learning loss with high-quality programs and leveraging community partnerships to help pay for them.

Webinar

Education at a Glance 2013: EWA/OECD Webinar
55 minutes

How much of the U.S. gross domestic product is spent on education? How does that education spending break down for early childhood education, K-12 education and higher education? How much private spending is dedicated to education, compared to public spending? What is the link between higher education degrees and unemployment rates in the U.S. and other countries?

Report

Technology Counts 2013: Building the Digital District

Technology Counts 2013—the 16th edition of Education Week’s annual report on educational technology—tackles how school districts are working to incorporate more multimedia into classrooms, upgrade online professional development, and do a better job using data to improve student achievement.

Webinar

Diving into Data: Requesting (and Analyzing) Public School Numbers
53 minutes

After you’ve filed your back-to-school stories, get ready make waves with some hard-hitting, data-based reporting this academic year. If you’ve never parsed test scores, attendance numbers or graduation rates, this webinar is a great place to start.

Jack Gillum, an investigative reporter with the Associated Press, offers tips on how to use data to enhance your reporting; find the information to get you started; and identify newsworthy trends in the numbers. Gillum contributed to an award-winning 2011 USA Today series on suspicious student test score gains in Washington, D.C.

Webinar

Follow the Money: What’s Hiding In Your School District’s Spending?
56 minutes

Follow the Money: What’s Hiding In Your School District’s Spending?

So you’ve managed to get your hands on all the records your school district keeps about its budget and spending. Now what? How can you turn a giant data dump into a compelling story for your readers?

In this EWA webinar, you’ll hear how reporters at the Dallas Morning News used public records to create databases of district spending and budget information, and how they used those databases to uncover everything from fraud and mismanagement to cozy vendor-employee relationships to the misuse of federal grants.

Webinar

Summer Idyll — or Idle? Story Ideas for Journalists
58 Minutes

All over the country, the year’s last school bell is ringing. But now that it’s time for pool parties and summer camp, what happens to the knowledge students gained during the school year?

Gary Huggins of National Summer Learning Association; Kathleen Manzo of Education Week; and Katy Murphy of the Oakland Tribune talk about how reporters can examine summer learning loss and how to tell when schools and communities offer effective summer school.

Webinar

Mining the Data: What States Have and Where to Find It
58 minutes

Elizabeth Laird, Director of Communications and External Affairs for the Data Quality Campaign, provides an update on states’ progress toward collecting and using education data and reveals the type of data and related reports available from your states. She’ll especially concentrate on linking K-12 and postsecondary data to explore issues like college and career readiness, college remediation, and other topics.

Webinar

Do the Math: Outsmarting Statistics

No one ever entered the journalism profession to crunch numbers, but dealing with data is a crucial part of the education beat. Holly Hacker, statistics guru and education reporter for the Dallas Morning News, shows you the basics for understanding how to effectively report on statistics.

Webinar

Behind the Numbers: What the SAT Scores Really Say
49 minutes

States love to brag when their SAT scores go up, and are quick to offer reasons why they went down. How can reporters see through the spin and put their states in context?

Holly Hacker, education reporter and stats guru at the Dallas Morning News, explains some basic statistical concepts using state SAT scores, showing you the biggest force driving those scores to help effectively and fairly compare your state with all the others.

While this webinar is focused on the SAT, these techniques are applicable to many other education issues.

Multimedia

EWA Interview: UCLA’s John Pryor on the CIRP Freshman Survey

EWA Interview: UCLA’s John Pryor on the CIRP Freshman Survey

How can higher education reporters use CIRP survey data in their stories? How are educational institutions using the information? John Pryor, director of CIRP at UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, gives guidance in this interview conducted at EWA’s Higher Education Seminar on Nov. 4-5 at UCLA.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Word on the Beat: Assessments

As a regular feature, The Educated Reporter features a buzzword or phrase that You Need To Know (yes, this designation is highly subjective but we’re giving it a shot). Send your Word on the Beat suggestions to erichmond@ewa.org.

Word on the beat: Assessments

Report

States’ K-12 Test Security Policies and Procedures Varied

According to GAO’s nationwide survey of state testing directors, all states reported that their policies and procedures included 50 percent or more of the leading practices to prevent test irregularities in the following five areas—security plans, security training, security breaches, test administration and protecting secure materials. 

Organization

Data Wise Project

Data Wise Project is an effort based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education that helps develop resources for educators on how to effectively use data. Data Wise provides online training as well as an annual training summit at the school.

Organization

Data Use for Improving Learning

Data Use for Improving Learning is a website operated by UCLA’s National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing (CRESST) to look at the effective use of data to improve learning. The site offers current research and guidelines for educators.

Organization

DATA Use

DATA Use is a new website created by University of Texas professor Jeffrey C. Wayman, who researches data-driven decision making by school districts and what it takes to make districts effective users of data.  His new project, “the Data Informed District,” is examining the work of three districts in central Texas. He will develop a framework based on the research this year (2012).

Organization

Data Quality Campaign

Data Quality Campaign is a national coalition that has pushed for better data in education. It keeps a list of “10 essential elements” that every state education data system should have — including student-level information on test scores and demographics (such as race, gender and socioeconomic status); a unique identifier assigned to students so they can be followed over time; and the ability to match individual teachers to their students.

Organization

Consortium for School Networking (CoSN)

Consortium for School Networking’s Data-Driven Decision Making (3D) Initiative is a national effort to help school district technology leaders build and sustain a data culture within their districts.  It is designed to provide tools and resources to help districts implement and sustain data usage while providing a national forum on how data are being used to individualize the learning process. 

Organization

The Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education

The Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education is based at Johns Hopkins University and conducts training as well as provides a model, Raising the Bar, for data-driven instruction. Note that the organization is affiliated with the Center for Research and Reform in Education and Robert Slavin.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New MetLife Survey: Teacher Job Satisfaction Hits 25-Year Low

A new survey paints a troubling portrait of the American educator: Teacher job satisfaction has hit its lowest point in a quarter of a century, and 75 percent of principals believe their jobs have become too complex.

The findings are part of the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Challenges for School Leadership. Conducted annually since 1984, the survey polled representative sampling of 1,000 teachers and 500 principals in K-12 schools across the country.

Key Coverage

Relax, It’s Only a Test

In the 12 years since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, frequent high-stakes exams have become the norm at every public school in every state in the country. Standardized testing programs cost states a total of $1.7 billion yearly, according to a recent report from the Brookings Institution. Poor performances on these exams can have severe consequences: students with low scores can be held back, teachers whose students do poorly can be fired, and schools with below-average overall results can be closed entirely.

Report

One-Stop Shop to Learn About Education Data

Data First was created with the idea that data matters. Education data, used well, can help school board members and everyone else who cares about education to make good decisions – ones based, not on the loudest voices or the latest theories, but on the facts about what students need and how they are currently doing. The Data First site is designed to link visitors to data they can use about schools, and to teach them how to use it better

Key Coverage

The Opportunity Gap

This database includes all public schools in districts with more than 3,000 students from the 2009-2010 school year — about three-quarters of all such students in the country. Use it to find out how well your state provides poor and wealthier schools equal access to advanced classes that researchers say will help them later in life.

Key Coverage

Colleges Overproducing Elementary Teachers, Data Find

Data, while imprecise, suggest that some states are producing far more new teachers at the elementary level than will be able to find jobs in their respective states—even as districts struggle to find enough recruits in other certification fields.

For some observers, the imbalances reflect a failure of teacher colleges—by far, the largest source of new teachers—and their regulatory agencies to cap the number of entrants.

Key Coverage

The history of school closings in Chicago 2002-12

WBEZ plotted annual school closings and schools “turned around” since the 2001-02 school year when CPS began shuttering schools as a reform strategy. This sortable chart and map shows where schools have been closed or turned around (where the staff is completely replaced but students remain), what’s become of the old buildings and how well the new schools in those buildings are performing. The chart includes updated performance data from the 2011-12 school year.

Report

Ensuring Fair and Reliable Measures of Effective Teaching

This non-technical research brief for policymakers and practitioners summarizes recent analyses from the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project on identifying effective teaching while accounting for differences among teachers’ students, on combining measures into composites, and on assuring reliable classroom observations. (Editor’s note: The study was part of a three-year, $50 million project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that included dozens of researchers and over 3,000 teachers who volunteered.

Key Coverage

Louisiana’s educators enter a new world with evaluations and their consequences

Teachers in Louisiana have all but lost the tenure rules that once protected their jobs. Beginning this year, all 50,000 of them will be evaluated and ranked on an annual basis, often with test scores factoring in heavily. Soon, consistently “ineffective” teachers will no longer be welcome in the classroom. This, depending on one’s point of view, is either the latest assault on Louisiana’s educators or an urgent step toward modernizing the teaching profession and lifting the state out of academic mediocrity.

Key Coverage

Vocabulary Test Results Show Top U.S. Students Losing Ground, Others Stagnate

If you can identify the meaning of the word “prospered” within a passage, chances are you know more vocabulary than most American high school seniors.
The results of the national standardized vocabulary tests are in, and the scores are troubling — but not unexpected — experts say. Average performance on the U.S. Education Department’s national exams was mostly stagnant at low levels between 2009 and 2011, and the highest performers lost ground during that time.

Key Coverage

Statistical Significance

Data have been increasingly incorporated into education practice and the increasing reliance on standardized tests is increasing the amount of data for educators to analyze. But the overwhelming data are leaving many unable to figure out how to use them.

Report

Strength in Numbers: State Spending on K-12 Assessment Systems

The report identifies state collaboration on assessments as a clear strategy for achieving cost savings without compromising test quality. For example, a state with 100,000 students that joins a consortium of states containing one million students is predicted to save 37 percent, or $1.4 million per year; a state of 500,000 students saves an estimated 25 percent, or $3.9 million, by joining the same consortium. Collaborating to form assessment consortia is the strategy being pursued by nearly all of the states that have adopted the Common Core standards.

Key Coverage

School Testing In U.S. Costs $1.7 Billion, But That May Not Be Enough: Report

Matt Chingos has an idea that will likely roil the scores of parents and teachers who think the U.S. tests its students too much: we might actually spend too little on standardized testing.

In a report released Thursday titled “State Spending on K-12 Assessments,” Chingos, a fellow at the Brookings Institute, tallied up the cost of standardized testing, a subject that has fueled much debate and speculation. After sending out countless Freedom of Information Act requests and rummaging through boxes of documents, he arrived at an estimate of $1.7 billion.

Key Coverage

State Falls Short on School Desegregation Requirements

Connecticut has run out of time to comply with a court order to reduce the inequities caused by the segregation of Hartford’s largely black and Hispanic school population. The state Department of Education on Thursday afternoon reported that 37 percent of Hartford students are now attending integrated schools — 4 percent shy of the number the state agreed to reach in a settlement five years ago.

Key Coverage

San Jose Unified, teachers reach breakthrough evaluation, pay plan

The superintendent of San Jose Unified and leaders of the district’s teachers union have agreed on an innovative evaluation and compensation system that, if implemented, would be significantly different from any in California. With education groups in Sacramento and legislators still bruised over a grueling, failed effort to revise the state’s teacher evaluation law last summer, the San Jose plan offers hope that a progressive compromise on divisive issues is possible.

Key Coverage

State Reported Inflated Rate of Teachers Lacking Credentials

The percentage of teachers and other certificated staff lacking proper credentials was actually 29 percent, not the 58 percent the state reported for the 2005-06 school year. The revelation, sparked by errors in state data identified by California Watch, means the state has been using an incorrect baseline as it measures progress at its lowest-performing schools.

Key Coverage

Why Kids Should Grade Teachers

A decade ago, an economist at Harvard, Ronald Ferguson, wondered what would happen if teachers were evaluated by the people who see them every day—their students. The idea—as simple as it sounds, and as familiar as it is on college campuses—was revolutionary. And the results seemed to be, too: remarkable consistency from grade to grade, and across racial divides. Even among kindergarten students. A growing number of school systems are administering the surveys—and might be able to overcome teacher resistance in order to link results to salaries and promotions.

Key Coverage

Teaching the Teachers

The Hechinger Report is investigating how professional-development funds are spent in the country’s largest school system—New York City—as well as in other districts around the nation to see what we can learn from schools, districts and countries that excel at ongoing teacher training.

Key Coverage

Districts Use Data to Sharpen Focus in Class

Omaha Public Schools spent millions launching a computer system to help teachers provide data-driven instruction. But some teachers haven’t embraced it, and others say they aren’t fully trained in how to use it. And still other educators say that while they’re able to diagnose where students need help, they need more assistance in developing alternative strategies.

Key Coverage

Can Education Be ‘Moneyball’-ed?

Data analysis is so trendy these days that Brad Pitt is getting millions of people to sit through a movie about quantitative methodology called Moneyball, writes Eduwonk blogger Andy Rotherham. A lot of education reformers are calling for a similar approach to improve student performance but there are some significant strikes against a Moneyball approach to education, he says.

Report

Impact of Data-Driven Reform on Mathematics and Reading Achievement

This study may be the first large-scale randomized assignment study looking at data-driven instruction and its effect on student learning. The study looked at 500 schools in 59 districts to estimate the effects of a project by the Johns Hopkins Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education. The study looks at the first year.

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Spotlight on Data-Driven Decision Making

Education Week focused on data-driven decision making in nine articles over 2010 and 2011, looking at issues around mining the data to improve instruction, better use of data to prevent dropouts, implementing the technology and managing student privacy, among other topics.

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Organizational Considerations in Educational Data Use

Effective data use by U.S. schools is proving to be a vexing problem. Researchers in this paper suggest ways that schools and districts can use data for educational improvement. They discuss three organizational areas in which these districts may improve: establishing common understandings, professional learning for using data, and computer data systems.

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The WRITE Stuff

Grant School District 3 in Oregon took full advantage of a new data-driven training program to improve its students’ test scores by using data to focus on trouble spots. Spelling errors by students shrank substantially thanks to the effort.

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Culture of Data Evolves in Fulton Schools

The Fulton County, Ga., public school system is well-known for its data-driven decision making and management system. In fact, it’s been lauded by experts for its techniques. It took the district 10 years to get there.

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Cutting Through the “Data-Driven” Mantra: Different Conceptions of Data-Driven Decision Making

The paper, a chapter in the Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, summarizes two RAND studies that address this question: What are the different ways educators use data to make decisions about teaching and learning?  The study outlines factors that enabled – or inhibited – various types of data-based decision-making.

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Making Sense of Data-Driven Decision Making in Education

RAND provides an “occasional paper” reviewing its research on data-driven decision making and clarifying what conclusions can be drawn. There remain many unanswered questions about the interpretation and use of data to inform decisions and the ultimate effect of those decisions.