From Geek to Chic: Using Data to Improve Education

January 24, 2012

Data geeks are so in. The education community has increasingly recognized the importance of data systems in improving student outcomes. Unlike flare jeans or feather hair extensions, this trend is not fading away.

This was made clear at the Data Quality Campaign's (DQC) National Data Summit. The event featured Secretary Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee, former DC Chancellor now founder and CEO of StudentsFirst, among others. Both suggested that putting education data into the hands of students is not a bad thing. Duncan harkened education data to video games, kids want to see their improvement and will work harder to raise their score.

Putting education data into the hands of students is not a bad thing—and could be a key to school improvement.

Aimee Rogstad Guidera, executive director of DQC and one of TIME's School of Thought: 12 Education Activists of 2012, described the current reality. Now is a time of increased expectations and limited resources. People must learn how to do more with less, and data is essential for figuring out how to do this effectively. For Guidera, the goal is for all stakeholders, students, teachers, parents, principals, and administrators, to believe that they cannot do their jobs without data.

Since DQC got its start in 2005, states have made marked improvements in implementing the 10 Essential Elements of State Longitudinal Data Systems. This is due to the hard work of DQC to inform states and an influx of federal funding for data system, as part of the recovery act.

States have made great investments in developing longitudinal data systems. The question is: How are they using data to improve outcomes? This is where states need improvement.

DQC has shifted focus to its 10 State Actions to Ensure Effective Data Use. One action is for states to put a governance structure in place that can to guide data collection, sharing, and use. Overall, the actions can be organized by three central themes:

  • expanding data systems across state agencies
  • ensuring data can be accessed and is used to communicate with stakeholders
  • building the capacity of all stakeholders to use data in their decision-making

Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust, said "Until the use of data is routine in shaping education practice and institutions, our work is not done."

Check out DQC’s interactive guide to data to see how states have made progress in developing and implementing effective data systems.

DQC analysis

Danielle Evennou is senior policy associate with the Forum for Youth Investment, and a poet. You can reach her at Danielle[@]

The Forum is SparkAction's managing partner.

What do you think? Are you using data in innovative ways? Let us know in the comment section below!

Danielle Evennou

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I like your idea of putting the data collected into the hands of students. We inform the leaders of youth about the results but haven&;t thought about telling our youth. An action that I will do NEXT TIME!

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I am not that satisfied and convince how this data system can even improve the governance structures.

D. Martin