Data for Kids

Helping students succeed with timely, actionable information to those who need it most.

GUEST COLUMN | by Paige Kowalski

CREDIT Data Quality CampaignThe Data Quality Campaign (DQC) recently released a new vision and set of policy recommendations to help states enact policies critical to ensuring that data is used to support student learning. We gathered a bunch of smart people in a room (and via webcast) to impress on them how we can—and must—do better for kids. We need to do better for the military mom, the first-year teacher, the struggling ninth-grader, the tireless school leader. How do we do better? By getting quality, timely, actionable information to those who need it most to help students succeed.

Our recommendations for policymakers outline four policy priorities:

  • Measure What Matters: Be clear about what students must achieve and have the data to ensure that all students are on track to succeed.
  • Make Data Use Possible: Provide teachers and leaders the flexibility, training, and support they need to answer their questions and take action.
  • Be Transparent and Earn Trust: Ensure that every community understands how its schools and students are doing, why data is valuable, and how it is protected and used.
  • Guarantee Access and Protect Privacy: Provide teachers and parents timely information on their students and make sure it is kept safe.

Every student has a unique background, unique strengths, and a unique path to college and career. To date, efforts to improve education have operated on a model of mass production, assuming—wrongly—that what works for some students must work for all. Data has the

The focus needs to pivot from collecting data to using data at all levels.

potential to transform education from a model of mass production to a personalized enterprise that meets the needs of individuals and ensures that no student is lost along the way. But for this transformation to happen, the focus needs to pivot from collecting data to using data at all levels. In order for districts and states to use data and technology to personalize learning for students, we must stop thinking about data as a hammer for compliance and instead start seeing data as a flashlight illuminating the path to continuous improvement.

Education technology has a significant role to play in making personalized learning a reality for all kids. At the same time, the integration of technology into education has significant implications for the privacy and security of student information. States need to understand the digital environments in which student data is generated and stored, account for schools’ use of third-party online applications, and address the need for security safeguards designed for evolving digital environments. States must adopt smart policies and practices to ensure the privacy and security of students’ personal information and build trust in the use of student data.

Providing secure access to student-level data to educators and parents gets us closer to realizing the promise of personalized learning. With advances in education technology, teachers have richer and more useful information than ever before to support teaching and learning. Using data and technology in new ways allows educators to generate a more holistic picture of student learning than has been traditionally available, providing them with information about students that is both timely and useful. When teachers have access to information, they can better tailor their practice to what individual students need. States must advance policies and practices that give teachers and families access to valuable information so they can better support students.

Of course, having access to quality data doesn’t help teachers—and students—improve if teachers don’t know how to interpret and act on that information. Educators need training, time, and tools to use education technology (and the data that is generated) effectively to improve teaching and learning. Our policy recommendations call for states to enact the necessary policies, practices, and conditions to ensure that every educator can use data effectively.

Technology and data use has immense potential to transform education from a one-size-fits-all model to one that recognizes students’ unique strengths, challenges, and goals. Implementing the four policy priorities is fundamental to realizing the potential of personalized learning. It will be challenging work, but we believe that it is both necessary and possible. Now that every state in the nation has a robust longitudinal data system, it is possible for every student in this country to benefit from personalized learning that meets his or her needs. We are confident that states are ready to tackle this next step. All students deserve a great education, and changing how we think about and use education data is essential to that mission. When students, parents, educators, and partners have the right information to make decisions, students excel.

Paige Kowalski is the vice president of policy and advocacy for the Data Quality Campaign, a nonprofit policy and advocacy organization leading the effort to bring every part of the education community together to empower educators, families and policymakers with quality information to make decisions that ensure students achieve their best. 

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    Teacher Feedback in Policy Making and Classroom Management

    Managing the quality of education in schools has till now depended more on guesswork than evidence due to the difficulties in collecting and interpreting quality assurance data across schools. In a time of fundamental shifts in the education industry and broadening technology access this is no longer acceptable.

    Governments all across the world are focusing on continuously improving the quality of education. Improving the scores in PISA, the OECD’s test for student achievement, is a core part of education policy for most countries. Therefore governments are initiating major curriculum transformations and implementing improvement programmes in their school networks.

    The basic aim of education is shifting globally to a competency-based model where student grades are no longer a reliable indicator of success. As stated by Chris Sturgis in 2015 almost 90% of the states in USA are initiating competency-based innovations. New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and Colorado are implementing competency-based education policies to re-align education systems, create proficiency based diplomas and convert credits that recognize acquired skills. Increasing number of US states are implementing seat-time waivers and competency-based grading and reporting systems. Finland, which is regarded as one of the top education systems globally, is entering a curriculum reform and shifting from subjects to topics. Sweden is reconsidering its system design in the face of declining PISA results. This is seen across the globe as the workplace no longer requires students to just master information but increasingly requires them to develop competencies and mind-sets. Currently these changes are implemented without being able to monitor what is working and what isn’t. Policy makers across the globe have recognized that stakeholder and especially teacher feedback is the key to effective quality improvement in education. Bill Gates is lobbying the US government to spend 5bn USD on teacher feedback and improvement.

    The problem occurs as there is neither framework nor tools to efficiently manage teacher, student and other stakeholder feedback in education. The current manual feedback practice gives very little useful information to school network leaders that require a coherent and consistent flow of information. The only ways to centrally assess the quality of education in school networks are either relying on very subjective school self-assessment reports, or analysing student performance in centrally managed exams. This shows too narrow of a view because, as noted above, school systems are moving towards a wider set of education goals than just getting good grades.

    School improvement efforts can be much more efficient, if schools and governments were able to move away from the manual paper-based feedback collection processes towards an approach that suits the methodological and technological advancement of the 21st century.

    At Edurio we are an incredibly diverse set of folks but most of us have had the pleasure of teaching in schools, universities or both. This helps us understand the challenges schools face in trying to improve the education they provide. That is why we have built Edurio – an effective and easy tool to make teacher and student voices heard. With Edurio individual teachers as well as schools and school networks can create and manage feedback in the classroom and school environment with the additional bonus of a ready-made reports view that compiles all your results into color-coded graphs. It’s a tool that takes away almost all of the pressure of the feedback process, no busy work, no long hours of mulling through data. Users can create class groups, choose questions to include in their surveys from the Edurio question bank or include their own questions, send out survey links and wait for results to come in. Working with over 200 schools, 5’500 teachers and 55’000 students, we have collected more than 1’000’000 completed surveys.

    Try it now and give us your feedback, Edurio’s free for individual teachers and it’s going to help you get heard.

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