Report: Lack of COVID-era report cards left families ‘in the dark’

Data Quality Campaign faults states for not reporting chronic absences, graduation rates and teacher data during pandemic
By: | May 26, 2021

States missed a valuable opportunity to use school report cards to help parents better understand how COVID disrupted student learning, a new report says.

Even though standardized tests were canceled in 2019-2020, states could have used report cards to provide information on critical measures such as chronic absence, graduation rates, and teacher data according to the “Show Me the Data” by the Data Quality Campaign.

“The obstacles facing states, schools, teachers, and students in 2020 were unprecedented and made communication and transparency more important than ever,” said Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger, the Campaign’s president and CEO.

“As a state’s most public-facing resource, report cards should have given families the information they needed,” Bell-Ellwanger said.  “Unfortunately, most families were left in the dark.”

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The Campaign found that:

  • Only 9 states reported chronic absences for the 2019–20 school year though 35 states had reported that data on the most recent report cards from previous years.
  • Only 32 states reported graduation rates for each federally required group of students.
  • 24 states did not include information on all federally required teacher data, such as experience level, number of emergency or provisional credentials or out-of-field teachers.

The report, however, gave states credit for making the following progress on their report cards:

  • 36 states included school-level per-student spending, up from 19 states the previous year.
  • 29 states reported career and technical education (CTE) enrollment or completion, a net increase of 4 states from the previous year.
  • 37 states reported postsecondary enrollment but only 14 states reported on enrollment in two-year colleges.
  • 6 new states reported graduation rates for students experiencing homelessness, and 6 new states reported graduation rates for students in foster care, two populations have been heavily impacted by the pandemic.

Also, some states added new languages to report cards to better explain COVID’s impacts on learning, the report found. For example, North Dakota’s created a COVID-19 response page for each school with data on the number and percentage of students receiving in-person learning, hybrid learning, and virtual learning.

North Dakota’s report card also links to each school’s safety and distance learning plans.

And Pennsylvania used commonly understood warning symbols to indicate data that was affected by school closures.

“Everyone from policymakers to parents needs information that’s easy to find, use, and understand as we seek to grasp how well students and schools are recovering from this time of disruption,” Bell-Ellwanger said. “States missed an opportunity in 2020 to share information but this shouldn’t deter them from continuing to improve their report cards moving forward.”