Addressing the Power of Data

The May issue of The State Education Standard contains articles on a variety of data-related topics, like how using digital tools in the classroom can improve teacher efficacy, and how data figures into educational inequality, transparency, privacy and funding.

by / May 19, 2016 0
Educators agree that technology has a place in the classroom, but does existing legislation adequately protect student information? David Kidd/e.Republic

The May issue of The State Education Standard is the scholastic world’s cue to do two things: use data and start whistling a different tune.

Kristen Amundson, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), the organization that publishes the Standard, said data is more important than ever.

“We felt like, right now, with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, it was critical for state board members and other policy makers to understand what it is they need to know about data so that they can make really the best decision to improve student outcomes,” Amundson said. “People say that ESSA is probably the most data-reliant piece of educational legislation that’s ever been passed.”

The 40-page publication contains articles on a variety of data-related topics, like how using digital tools in the classroom can improve teacher efficacy, and how data figures into educational inequality, transparency, privacy and funding. The two biggest issues around data covered by the publication, Amundson said, are privacy and how data can improve performance in the classroom.

The data that can be gathered on individual children can be transformative in their lives, she said, but only if our institutions can overcome their own histories.

“I know the information I got from my child’s school was never very good and included the word ‘stanine’ a lot,” she said.

The term “stanine” is short for “standard nine.” It’s a scoring scheme developed by the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. In other words, some schools are using the same terminology and methods as those used in 1943.

The key to good data sharing, Amundson said, is getting the information to the right people and getting it to them before the data is no longer useful. Data given to teachers after their students have moved on to new teachers is no longer useful, she noted, and this is a critical issue to maximize the success of the nation’s students.

“What information do parents need?’ she said. “They want to know really, 'how is my child doing? What is she doing well? Where does she need some work? And then how are we going to work together to fix that?' One-hundred-ten percent of all parents with kids in schools – that’s what they want to know.”

The issue of privacy is also addressed in several articles. A look at Georgia’s treatment of the issue addresses state-level challenges. Another article examines how privacy legislation in Oklahoma and California influence the remaining policy landscape. And two data privacy experts offer competing viewpoints on federal-level policy. It’s an unavoidable issue that must be addressed, Amundson said.

“Parents want to know, ‘Who’s going to know information about my kid?’” she added, “and is the fact that he got into a fight on the playground in the second grade going to be something that the college recruiter from Harvard is going to find out about?”

The May issue of The State Education Standard, called The Power of Data, can be downloaded for free from the National Association of State Boards of Education.

Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.