If you remember your school-aged years (and if you’re now a parent) you know about report cards. Maybe you blamed your teacher for unacceptable grades. Maybe you were a straight-A student. The point is the same—report cards told you (student, parent, educator) valuable information about the student’s academic performance. If you were lucky, progress reports were distributed throughout the year to monitor the student’s progression and take action as necessary to keep the student on track before the final report card grades. If the world were perfect, the information would go beyond a simple letter grade and provide details about the student’s strengths and weaknesses to better support the student’s progress.
You probably never thought of report cards this way, but they are education data, and delivering this education data is important at many levels. The report card you knew as a student is about the individual, but states also produce report cards with information about every district and school in the state. Most states started this public reporting as a result of a requirement in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently authorized as the No Child Left Behind Act; see this blog by current DQC Director of National and Federal Policy Initiatives Kirstin Yochum for naming nomenclature). So most states are producing this information based on compliance.
achievement on assessments in middle and early in high school;
course completion and success along a CCR course of study; and
attainment for ninth-grade students based on grades and attendance in core courses.
Currently even if the above information is publicly reported, the data are often in disparate locations and not displayed in a way that enhances understanding and use. Achieve’s advocacy and support in states pushes and aids states to produce timely, accessible, contextual, and coordinated data reporting aligned with CCR goals and strategies.
This year DQC is working with Achieve and other partners to inform state policymakers about current and emerging best practices on public reporting for local stakeholders to make informed decisions, answering the following questions:
Why should states prioritize district and school report cards?
What questions do local stakeholders need answered through public reporting?
How should public reports be made available and displayed to facilitate understanding and use?
What states are demonstrating promising practices?
Just as students and parents use individual report cards to make decisions about students’ progress and next steps required for success, so should districts, schools, and education stakeholders be able to use district and school report cards to make decisions about school choice, accountability, and continuous improvement.
If you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t dream of making a decision without thoroughly researching all your options first.
Before I go to the movies, I check out Fandango, Rotten Tomatoes, and IMDB to help me decide which film to see. When purchasing a new appliance, I consult Consumer Reports for the most up-to-date ratings and recommendations. When choosing a hotel or vacation destination, I spend hours poring over traveler reviews on Trip Advisor.
Fortunately for me, in the hyper-connected world we live in, I can easily access a tremendous amount of information—both qualitative and quantitative—to inform my decisions large and small. The information these sites provide helps me navigate my options and make a choice that best meets my personal criteria.
More than ever before, families across the country have choices to make, choices about where to send their children to school and which programs, resources, and opportunities are best for them. These are really important choices—much more important than which movie to see or what blender to buy. To make these choices—and to make them well—parents need readily available, easily understandable information. They need education data. Publicly available, aggregated student data help parents understand the quality of their schools and make informed decisions about their children’s education choices.
Since 1998 DQC partner GreatSchools has been working to provide parents with robust, aggregate, school-level data to help parents find great schools and improve learning opportunities for their children. Since then it has become the leading national source of school performance information for parents, providing critical information about school performance, climate, and more to 44 million unique visitors and 50 percent of American families with children. Harnessing the power of big data, crowdsourcing, and mobile technology, GreatSchools engages and supports parents in their quest to find the right school for their child—the school that fits their family’s values, that best meets their child’s unique needs.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco for the first GreatSchools Summit on choosing schools in the digital age. Throughout the day panelists and participants kept returning to the idea that robust, high-quality information empowers parents to navigate their manifold options and make smart school choices that match their values and meet their needs. In a nutshell, parents need data. While families may have different goals and interests when searching for schools (just as my idea of a perfect vacation may differ from yours) the fact remains: parents are more likely to find a great school that is a great fit for their child when they have education data they can easily access, understand, tailor to their needs, and act on.
Though the GreatSchools platform reaches 50 percent of American families with children (a huge number!), all families in every state need access to robust education data. States have a responsibility to ensure this access for parents and other education stakeholders—to work with districts, schools, and others to provide stakeholders with the information they need to answer critical questions about school enrollment, school climate, student performance, teacher quality, and more.
To aid states in this important work, DQC is working with GreatSchools and other partners to inform state policymakers about current and emerging best practices on public reporting for local stakeholders to make informed decisions, including issues like what indicators states should publicly report to meet the information needs of parents, educators, policymakers, taxpayers, and business owners; how public reports should be made available; and how data in public reports should be displayed to facilitate understanding and use. Stay tuned!