Education funders play an irreplaceable role in improving the results achieved by the social sector—as thought leaders, advocates for better decisionmaking and data systems, and early investors in strategies with potential to scale throughout the field. Throughout 2014 the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) has gathered funders to develop practical ideas for improving their work with data, and at this year’s annual conference of the Grantmakers for Education in Miami, DQC Executive Director Aimee Rogstad Guidera will introduce these ideas at two important sessions:
Becoming a Data-Driven Enterprise: Increasing Effectiveness in Grantmaking
Wednesday, October 22, 1:00 p.m.
As grantmakers, we make difficult decisions about where to invest limited resources, often without as much information as we would wish on the needs of schools and students or the effectiveness of the programs serving them. Grantmakers often wrestle with how to use data to increase the impact of education philanthropy. This session uses real word examples, an interactive format, and a new resource to help attendees think strategically about how to enrich their grantmaking through smart uses of education data.
Speakers: Kelem Butts, Aimee Rogstad Guidera
Policy Update: The Education Pipeline and Better, Safer Data Use (Education Policy Working Group
Thursday, October 23, 9:30 a.m.
This policy seminar is intended to serve as an overview and update on the many policy developments, discussions, and issues involving data use and privacy that have arisen over the past year. Data usage and sharing is being spurred on by what many view as important improvements and innovations in education. These include school records that can chart instructional and learning alignment between grades and segments in the education pipeline, sophisticated student tracking and advising systems, and personalized learning structures including competency-based education. Many view intentional data usage as the foundation for innovation in our education system as it enables more nimble responses to all learners. We know that other sectors—mainly the health care industry—have also grappled with these issues. What lessons learned can be borrowed and applied to education? In a set of interactive discussions anchored by an expert panel, this session will examine recent policy developments.
Speakers: Hanna Doerr, Aimee Rogstad Guidera, Matt Williams, Doug Levin, Geoff Zimmerman
Recently the Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a new tool demonstrating the actual expenditures of every school in Washington, DC, and the surrounding areas of Northern Virginia and Maryland. That may not sound like a big deal on first read, but it is. Rarely does the public have the opportunity to dive into financial information about schools beyond average per pupil expenditures calculated at the district, or even state level. The data presented by Fordham, thanks to public budget documents and Freedom of Information Act requests, incorporates actual teacher salaries at each school (teachers aren’t named, of course), providing a rare level of accuracy to the information.
As they should, the data raise more questions than anything. What conclusions do we hope parents and the public will draw? Are the schools with higher real spending levels somehow better? While this set of information provides us with a never-before-seen look at school-level financial data, it doesn’t put that information side by side with information about how students in that school are performing, how teachers spend their time, or what sort of supports they have. It doesn’t necessarily help parents know if this is the best school for their child.
It does, however, provide some insight into funding equity across schools. By comparing demographics, like rates of free and reduced-price lunch and student household income, against actual school funding, we do get a look at who is—and is not—getting short changed on at least one measure.
I am a big supporter of access to clear useful data, and this spending map is certainly that. But I would like to challenge leaders, states, districts, advocates, whomever, to go further—we need more information like this, and it needs to be side by side with other information about students and schools. Policy and practice must align to provide parents, the public, and policymakers with the whole picture about the places where students learn.