More Schools Collecting, Using Student Data

By: - November 19, 2013 12:00 am

Caption Leanasha Jones, right, and Bobby Kennedy, fourth graders at Southside K-8 School in War, W.Va., play video games after school. A new survey finds a growing number of states are collecting and using data to try to improve education.(AP)

A growing number of states are expanding the way they use student and school data. Teachers easily tap into data about their students’ performance to adjust how they teach, and parents can log into networks to learn how their children are doing, according to a new report by the Data Quality Campaign, a Washington-based nonprofit that advocates using data to improve student achievement.

Along the way, questions about student privacy and other concerns are mounting.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Teachers this year can access information about their students through secure state web sites or portals in 35 states, an increase from 28 states in 2011. Teachers can view multiple years’ worth of information about individual students, including courses taken and attendance.
  • In 17 states, teacher training programs can tap into information about how their graduates are performing in the classroom, up from six states in 2011. The data show how students in those teachers’ classrooms perform on standardized tests.
  • Parents in 14 states can access electronic data about their children.
  • Thirty-one states use data to identify the students most at risk of academic failure or dropping out, up from 18 in 2011.
  • Forty-five states have policies requiring the maintenance or use of school data systems, up from 36 in 2011.

The survey of state programs was taken in the summer and includes results from the District of Columbia and every state except California, which declined to participate.

Aimee Rogstad Guidera, executive director of the Data Quality Campaign, said the survey showed the focus has now shifted from collecting data in the schools to actually using it.

“State leaders increasingly recognize that empowering parents, educators and policymakers with the right data at the right time in the right format better ensures our young people graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education and careers,” Guidera said.

Privacy Issues

The report also highlights challenges for schools and states handling student data, such as the need to ensure privacy. Oklahoma, for example, passed legislation this year establishing safeguards around the collection and use of student data.

Elsewhere around the country, several states that had signed up to work with inBloom, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that collects and stores student data for school districts, have since backed off over security concerns. In New York, parents are suing to stop the state education department from working with inBloom.

Parents have expressed concerns about inBloom’s plan to place student data on a cloud-based data system accessible through the Internet. The group said its system is secure, and that school districts will be able to manage and control their own data.

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Adrienne Lu

Adrienne Lu leads Pew’s efforts to examine how states can support and strengthen the fiscal health of local governments. Her work focuses on detecting and responding to local government fiscal distress, municipal finances, and how state policies have the potential to affect local budgets and economies.