How Smarter Data Can Save U.S. Education

Judy Hartnett's picture
Thursday, January 19, 2012

Collecting data on individual students over time may give educators the insight they need to fix America's schools.

Here's one reason why No Child Left Behind is all but a failed initiative: One of its main metrics, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), is a horrendous measure of educational progress.

With AYP, each state sets its own goals and assesses progress with its own metric. If one state meets AYP and another one does not, it's impossible to make a comparison. NCLB relied on data for improvement, but that data was so unscientific that it hardly had a chance at success.

But, as a report from the Data Quality Campaign released today concludes, we may be on the verge of meaningful, data-backed reforms. Many states and school districts now have the capability to track individual students longitudinally, which means educators can compile electronic data of a student's yearly progress. In the aggregate, this information is invaluable as it pinpoints, rather than guesses at, the crucial milestones that mark the path toward higher-ed or career success.

"We couldn't have done this ten years ago," Aimee Guidera, executive director of the Data Quality Campaign explains. When No Child Left behind started, the data platform it needed to succeed simply didn't exist. But, what the program did do effectively, Guidera says, is create a call for transparency in educational data. "AYP was all we had," she says. "Now, because states have the ability to follow students over time, every state has the capability to have a growth model."

Read more »