Featured Friend Friday- A Discussion with Data Quality Campaign

We are excited to introduce this week’s Featured Friend – the Data Quality Campaign.

The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) is a national leading voice around education data policy and use. With a core mission of changing the role of data in education, DQC seeks to ensure that every student “is not only counted, but counts.” Recently, DQC built on its extensive work on education data use by partnering with Learning Heroes and the National Parent Teacher Association to release a new brief, titled “Disaggregated Data: Not Just a Box Checking Exercise.”

Our team here at the Collaborative was able to connect with Blair Mann, Director of Communications at DQC to discuss the new brief, it’s timeliness, the importance of using education data to address inequities, and how to make data findings accessible to families and education stakeholders.

The brief – released on October 28, 2019 – can be read in full here.

Check out our discussion with the Data Quality Campaign below!

CSS: Give us a broad-level overview of your brief and why it’s important to take a look at data disaggregation?

Blair: Families and communities deserve to know whether their local schools are serving the needs of every student. Without access to disaggregated data – information about student performance broken down by different student groups – that is easy to access and interpret, families and parents can’t understand how different groups of students are being served or act on that information. This brief underscores that disaggregated data is key to identifying opportunity gaps and confronting persistent barriers to student success – and provides information for state leaders as they make sure that families have the data they deserve to ensure that their students get a high-quality, equitable education.

CSS: Why is this resource so timely?

Blair: Terms like “disaggregated data” and “subgroup” are common to researchers and people inside the education policy space. But people, including families, may find these terms unfamiliar and even offensive. Aside from reporting this information publicly, it’s also important that states work to shift their terminology. Using a few more words to describe these important concepts can clarify the data and make it more understandable to a variety of audiences. As states continue to share information broken down by student group, it’s important that they are conveying this information in clear language that’s easy to find and that includes context so that families understand what it means.

CSS: Currently, how well a job are districts and states doing when it comes to disaggregating their student data? Are there trends of certain states doing a great job or doing not-so-great a job?

Blair: Last year, the Data Quality Campaign found that 41 states were not sharing data broken down by at least one federally required student group on their report cards. For many states, the student group missing was gender, which has been a federal requirement since 2001. We already know that some states have made improvements in this area, including more student group information on their report cards than in years past – and look forward to seeing more progress from states as we begin our yearly report card review.

CSS: In what ways are states required to disaggregate student data? Or what are some examples of additional ways states disaggregate data that may be beyond federal requirements?

Blair: Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, student performance data must be broken down by different student groups to help people understand the degree to which schools are meeting different students’ learning needs and to address longstanding achievement and opportunity gaps across the country. States are required to break down data for gender, race and ethnicity, students with disabilities, students from low-income families, students learning English, students in foster care, students experiencing homelessness, students from military families and students from migrant families. 

States should also consider including student groups that reflect community needs even if they are not federally required. Some state leaders use community needs assessments to better understand what data is relevant while others might focus on the most populous student groups in their state, as Minnesota does. Collecting and publicly reporting the data that is most meaningful can help state leaders move past compliance and focus on what’s relevant to their communities.

CSS: Once district and state leaders complete the task of disaggregating their student data, where does it go? For whom is this data most useful and are there “best practices” for increasing accessibility and visibility of disaggregated student data?

Blair: Data broken down by student group should appear on the states’ school report cards. This data should be presented in a way that’s easy to find, even if it’s not on the first page of the report card. Locating the data should never require a user to run a separate report or independently navigate to a separate site. Student group data should also be easy to understand. Report cards should present the data in context so that families understand why the data is being broken down and how they could use it. Following are some strategies that state leaders can use to improve how student group information is displayed and understood.

CSS: Are there any tools or resources you’d like to share out regarding increasing access to quality education data?

Blair: DQC’s website is full of resources about ensuring that people can easily access data that they understand, trust, and can use. Visit us at www.dataqualitycampaign.org and check out the brief at http://bit.ly/33sFfma.

Visit Learning Heroes’ (https://bealearninghero.org/) and National PTA’s (https://www.pta.org/) websites for more information from the parent perspective.