Forum Highlights and Videos
Panel 3: How can educators and other stakeholders use student performance data to connect families and schools in meaningful ways?
For too long, education data were used mainly for compliance purposes rather than to promote meaningful continuous improvement. Used in this vein, data did little more than show whether programs or educators were doing what was required of them. Aimee R. Guidera, Executive Director of the Data Quality Campaign, urged educators, parents, advocates, and policy makers to think about data not as a hammer, but as a flashlight.
When used for continuous improvement, data can help families understand what their student needs in order to strengthen skill areas and address challenges; teachers understand what they need to adjust in their instructional practices or outreach efforts in order to better serve students and families; and policy makers become aware of the impact of various strategies and can identify opportunities to scale up promising practices. Data sharing must be a dynamic process in which the people who receive data have the ability and authority to act on that information.
In order to be used effectively for continuous improvement, data also must be contextualized and translated into action steps. Data are more actionable when they reveal how a child’s growth is progressing rather than simply providing a one-time performance assessment or listing what a program is doing with a child. Thomas C. Shultz, Project Director for Early Childhood Initiatives at the Council of Chief State School Officers, noted that while the K–12 community has begun using data in more meaningful ways to help families understand student performance, the focus on data use within the early childhood community still tends to be on compliance.
Shared data have to be actually useful to the people who are most affected by the information being shared. Involving parents and other local, on-the-ground stakeholders in designing data collection and dissemination strategies is critical in creating meaningful partnerships in which everyone has an increased interest and investment in the success of data-sharing initiatives.
Just as parents and other stakeholders are more likely to be interested in and use data that they had a hand in creating and collecting, parents are also more likely to use data that are personalized to their student’s context, giving parents a meaningful and actionable assessment of their student’s growth and needs. This involves connecting data points to action steps so families can understand how their student’s performance can be affected by how families/parents act on the information they have received.