January 29, 2003 By Justine Brown
Accountability for Academic Progress
Indiana also is making significant strides in tracking and reporting school performance data. The state's Accountability System for Academic Progress (ASAP) provides academic performance data for all Indiana schools via the Web
"We've always had a lot of data in the department," said Suellen Reed, Indiana's state superintendent of instruction. "We collect data on everything, but it's never been very user-friendly. If you were technologically talented you could dig out almost anything you wanted to know, but the average person couldn't do that without a lot of help."
ASAP went live April 15, 2002. Using in-house IT talent, the state created a user-friendly format that allows teachers, administrators, students, parents or businesspeople to analyze school data. Areas of weakness can be compared year to year. ASAP also provides the variety of data needed to facilitate school compliance with No Child Left Behind requirements.
"It's a continuous improvement model that looks at students over time," said Gary Wallyn, director of school data reporting. "The student-level data will give us much more precise information about student improvement, mobility, graduation rates, etc. Down the road we'll hopefully integrate XML technology so it will be a much quicker system, and we'll be able to harvest data."
"The schools are now analyzing data better because they have a tool that facilitates that," said Reed.
Making the Transition
Once all this data is collected, how will states make the transition from gathering data to improving schools?
"We aren't the agency that's going to say a school is not making adequate yearly progress," said Henry. "But we are very much charged with collecting and reporting data in a way that's useful to the Department of Education that's charged with making that determination. Every system they're developing now that requires educational data is in conjunction with CEPI. We're right there in the thick of it in terms of providing the data that will be used to determine whether a school is measuring up to Department of Education standards."
Indiana officials are hoping schools will evaluate their own data and play a larger part in monitoring their own areas of weakness. "Everybody is searching for more time," Reed said. "Schools prior to this had to spend a lot of time collecting data, looking at data, putting it in graphical format. Hopefully this will save them time and allow them to monitor their own progress toward improvement."
With or without the No Child Left Behind requirements, Henry said analyzing data at the individual student level has already been extremely valuable to Michigan.
"The state will now really reveal how a school is performing," he said. "An aggregate number tends to shield us from the particulars. You can have a school that's performing very well in the aggregate, but if you start to pull it apart, you reveal places where the school needs work."
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