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Parents Say They Want More School Data. Teachers Say They Need More Time to Use it

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A new poll finds parents value more granular education data, and that most support schools sharing student-level academic data with other organizations that work with children, such as tutoring groups and other public agencies.

The results of the poll—conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the Data Quality Campaign, a national advocacy organization—come as schools are reporting data about new factors, like chronic absenteeism, under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The organization has called on states to make that data more accessible to the public.

The Data Quality Campaign released the parent poll Tuesday along with an accompanying poll of teachers that found value student data, despite learning little about how to use it in their preparation programs.

More than 80 percent of parents of schoolchildren responding to the poll said they "are interested in having access to information about how their child's school educates kids like theirs (e.g., same gender, race, or special education status)." That number was higher among black parents, 92 percent of whom supported more disaggregated data. Seventy-eight percent of Hispanic parents supported the idea. 

"Disaggregating data is about more than checking boxes," the report says. "Parents want to know how schools serve students like theirs."

The Data Quality Campaign previously released state's school-level report cards, which are designed to inform parents and the public about school performance. Among the findings: Forty-two states failed to disaggregate achievement data for at least one federally required subgroup, such as racial groups, English-learners, those with disabilities, or military-connected students, which is required on the report cards.

State education departments told Education Week's Daarel Burnette last year that finding a user-friendly way to present that volume of information can be "expensive, technically complicated, and politically delicate." And some state agencies are struggling with fewer staff and high turnover. 

Should schools share student data?

The poll also asked parents about securely sharing student-level data with people outside of the school. The results of those questions are summarized below in this graphic, which shows that a smaller majority of respondents supported such sharing than the number who supported access to more finely sliced data in previous questions.

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Some advocates for "whole-child" education models have supported such data sharing as a means of tackling everything from driving down absenteeism to making schools safer to supporting students affected by the opioid epidemic. In some states, multi-agency child welfare cabinets share data to look for gaps in how they work with children. But civil rights groups have raised concerns about student privacy, data security, and civil rights. For example, activists have sounded alarm bells about a planned Florida database meant to prevent school shootings by combining vast troves of sensitive information on everything from mental health treatment to school disciplinary records. 

Teachers value data, dip into their personal time to use it.

In an accompanying poll of teachers, 86 percent of respondents called using data is "an important part of being an effective teacher," and similar numbers of respondents said they used data for planning instruction, setting goals, and knowing what students are learning. But just 17 percent of teachers reported learning how to use data in their preparation programs, and 45 percent said they had taught themselves on the job. 

Additionally, 81 percent of teacher respondents reported they "find themselves dipping into personal time to apply student data to their lesson plans and teaching practice," the poll found. That will likely not be a surprise to many educators, who say there can be a bleeding line between work time and personal time as they juggle the demands of teaching.

The Data Quality Campaign recommends policymakers and administrators provide teachers with more time to evaluate student data, and that principals model how to do so by using it in their own practice.

Harris Poll compiled the results after surveying 750 full-time teachers and 1,013 parents with at least one child age 5-17 who attends school. Polling was conducted in May 2019.

Photo: Getty


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