Saturday, December 3, 2016

School Data Can Be Hard To Understand, And Sates Aren't Making It Any Easier : NPR Ed : NPR

School Data Can Be Hard To Understand, And Sates Aren't Making It Any Easier : NPR Ed : NPR:

Does Your State Provide Good Data On Your Schools? Probably Not

So you're trying to find some information about the schools in your community. Did students perform well on tests? How many students in a school are from low-income families? What's the demographic breakdown? Most folks would start to look for this by searching the web. But, depending on the state you live in, finding that information can be a real challenge.
That's according to a new report from the Data Quality Campaign. Analysts there spent 100 hours last summer looking at annual report cards put out by all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Here's what they found: Confusion. Broken links. Complicated tables and spreadsheets, filled with numbers and figures without meaning. There was missing data, out-of-date data and lots and lots of education jargon.
"We are passionate data geeks and we couldn't find this information," says Aimee Rogstad Guidera, president and CEO of the Data Quality Campaign, a group that advocates for better use of student information.
Just because the researchers couldn't find the data, says Guidera, doesn't mean that states aren't reporting it. States are required to have report cards each year to satisfy state and federal law, but there's no requirement to make that information easily available and understandable.
"The point is," says Guidera, "they're not communicating in a way that adds any value to someone living in their state."
Here are some of the report's findings:
  • Just four states had all the information initially required under the previous federal education law, No Child Left Behind.
  • Six states did not appear to have data on English language learners academic performance.
  • 13 states did not break their performance data down by gender.
  • About half of states included a non-academic measure of quality.
  • 11 states had old data, from the 2010-11, 2012–13 or 2013–14 school years.
  • in 18 states, it took analysts three or more clicks from the search engine results to find the data.
State report cards come in many different forms. Many use letter grades, A – F, for rating a school or district. Some states assign a number grade, like Kentucky, which gives districts a number on a scale of 1 to 100, and a classification. Wolfe County in Campton, Ky., for example — a rural district NPR Ed visited earlier this year — has an overall score of 69.3 and a Proficient classification.
But the drawback of a number or a single word rating, is it can be too simple.
"A person won't be invested in something they don't understand," says Stephen Pruitt, Kentucky's education commissioner. He's heard this over and over in his state: What does the number really mean. And, he says, is the number helpful? Is it what parents, students and local business School Data Can Be Hard To Understand, And Sates Aren't Making It Any Easier : NPR Ed : NPR:

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