State school report cards—4 positives, 4 flaws

States publish the required data or provide transparency, Data Quality Campaign report finds
By: | October 21, 2020
(GettyImages/Klaus Vedfelt)

State school report cards are improving at providing more meaningful, easy-to-understand information but more data is needed on equity, a report released today says.

States are following two approaches with their report cards: publishing the required data or providing transparency that informs families and communities, according to the Data Quality Campaign fourth “Show Me the Data” report.

In the first approach, states focus on how complete the data is, its quality, and how easy it is to locate, the campaign says.

In the second model, the transparency equates to continuously improving report cards that provide context for the data in language that is easy to understand.

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“State leaders must provide not only the required data on their report cards but also useful information to give families a fuller picture of whether schools are supporting all groups of students and what supports are needed to ensure that students succeed,” says Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger, the campaign’s president and CEO.

State report card bright spots

  • Rhode Island created charts and graphs specifically designed for mobile use
  • Delaware made per-pupil expenditure data more useable by focusing on user needs.
  • Minnesota and Washington made the language on their report cards easy to understand.
  • Idaho, Illinois, and Oklahoma provided context to make the information more meaningful.

The report identified the following positive trends:

  • 43 states report student growth data on their report cards this year, up from 39 the previous year.
  • 35 states include postsecondary enrollment data, up from 24 the previous year.
  • 25 states include career and technical education enrollment or completion data, up from 16 the previous year.
  • 13 states include teacher demographic data, up from 11 the previous year.

However, improvements are needed in the following areas:

  • 26 states are still missing at least one required student group in their displays of disaggregated achievement data.
  • While every state includes graduation rate data, 25 states do not break that information out by all of the federally required student groups.
  • 25 states do not include all the required information about teacher experience or credentials.
  • 25 states translate their report card into a language other than English.
  • While most states publish per-pupil expenditure data, the majority of states are still working to provide the information in ways that are meaningful and actionable to communities.

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State report cards can be examined with The Data Quality Campaign’s updated scavenger hunt, which now includes questions about school spending data.

The scavenger hunt allows users to identify which information is included on a state’s report card.

“As a state’s most public-facing resource, improving report cards is an evolving process, and states need to continuously ensure that report cards meet the needs of their communities,” Bell-Ellwanger says. “States must work from this important baseline next year.”