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Can States Make Student Data Useful for Schools?

The nation's more than 13,000 school districts produce mountains of student data each year, but the National Center for Education Statistics estimates that less than 2 percent of them have the "capacity and resources" to turn it into real, usable information for educators.

Instead, most of the data sit unused in state warehouses, and the leaders of those warehouses and other agencies are coming together next week at NCES' annual data conference in Washington to hash out the best ways to draw out information without endangering student privacy.

For example, suspension data in the Jefferson County, Ky., public schools showed the district disproportionately disciplined students in the same groups—students with disabilities, for one—that were struggling to make academic targets under federal accountability rules. Jefferson County official Robert Rodosky will detail how the district developed a "behavioral dashboard" to help avoid disproportionate discipline and ensure students who were not academically proficient didn't lose more instructional time while being disciplined.

Among other highlights:

  • Kansas is rolling out a data-quality certification program to train district and school staff on data privacy, security, and other best practices;
  • The federal Privacy Technical Assistance Center, launched in 2010, will analyze new guidance on how agencies share data on schools and foster care with researchers and nonprofit groups.
  • Federal officials and data leaders from California will talk about how districts are responding to increased federal scrutiny of school-level finances, including proposed changes to the federal Title I program "to require districts to demonstrate that actual expenditures in Title I schools are comparable to those in non-Title I schools rather than to use proxies, such as student-staff ratios or estimates of school expenditures."

I'll be digging into data all week, so if you are at the conference, get in touch!

Want more research news? Follow @SarahDSparks on Twitter for the latest studies, and join the conversation.

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