Data provides parents, educators, and policymakers with the information they need to personalize and support student learning.

“It’s incredibly important that the individual classroom teacher… [is] able to use data and access data to drive learning in their class,” said Chip Slaven, counsel to the president and senior advocacy adviser for the Alliance for Excellent Education. “So they know they have a better understanding of what each individual student’s needs are.”

The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) created Four Policy Priorities to Make Data Work for Students to show how district leaders can advocate for access to the right information in order to make decisions and support student learning at the local level.

  1. Measure what matters: Be clear about what you want to achieve for students and have the data to ensure it gets done.
  2. Make data use possible: Provide teachers and leaders the flexibility, training, and support they need to answer their questions and take action.
  3. Be transparent and earn trust: Ensure every community understands how their schools and students are doing and how data is valuable, protected, and used.
  4. Guarantee access and protect privacy: Give teachers and parents timely information on their students and make sure it is kept safe.

“We believe one of the ways you’re going to improve student learning in this country…is by going to a system that’s more personalized for the student,” Slaven said.

“Data use in the classroom is a great equalizer among our professional educators where they can make an impact on students on a daily basis,” said Shane Shope, an assistant professor at Morehead State University and former superintendent of the Lynchburg-Clay (Ohio) Local School District.

In order to drive student growth, districts need to invest in teacher training and professional development to help teachers understand the importance of data collection, Shope continued.

The 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides flexibility for teachers, said Slaven. Flexibility, “particularly around personalized learning, digital learning, and data…[and] training for teachers.”

However, data collection has parents worried about how their student’s information may be shared.

“There has to be an inherent trust that the decisions at the center of a school system are centered around the child,” said Noelle Ellerson, associate executive director of policy and advocacy for AASA, the School Superintendents Association. “Demonstrate that their student’s data is safe and secure.”

“According to a recent parent poll the equality campaign did, nine out of 10 parents said that they rely on data to understand how their child is progressing in school,” said Bernice Butler, senior associate of policy and advocacy, DQC.

Beyond parents and the district level, Slaven suggested every state have a chief state privacy officer who “guides best practices and privacy control at the state level…but also someone who can be an adviser to districts.” He emphasized the need for states to be a help instead of a hindrance.

“[ESSA is] really writing back that balance between Federal government and the state and local government,” said Ellerson. All levels of government need to work together as they have the same end goal of helping students succeed.

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