Using Data to Improve Student Outcomes and Inform Educational Decision Making

On January 18, 2011, the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) hosted a national summit and invited panelists such as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, 2011 Georgia Teacher of the Year Pam Williams, Executive Director of the Data Quality Campaign Aimee Guider, and others, to discuss why education data matters, how education data is currently being used, and what actionable steps need to be taken to strengthen data use across the United States.

The summit emphasized the need for states to build the capacity to share early childhood, K-12, and postsecondary data across education sectors and with workforce systems.  Panelists argued that this type of data sharing is needed to accomplish the goal of the Obama administration and the education community to increase the numbers of high school graduates who are college and career ready. Currently, only 11 states have the capacity to share all of this data.

Guidera suggested four key priorities for proactively using data to assist with school improvement and ensuring that longitudinal data is actionable and inter-operational among schools, districts, and states:

  1. Data systems help inform states about local needs. States need to seek input from their stakeholders on what people need and publicly document their critical questions.
  2. States should establish governing bodies capable of decision-making to address P-20 data use, sharing, and access issues.
  3. States should share data on teachers’ classroom performance and influence on their students’ achievement with the institutions that prepared them to teach.
  4. States and districts need to determine whether existing high school feedback reports meet LEA and school needs.

The summit highlighted a variety of resources and mechanisms that states are instituting to compile, track, and refine the use of data in their states. For example, over the last few years, Kentucky developed high school feedback reports and has revised them based on stakeholder feedback. These reports provide feedback within a year for a graduating class and include a breakdown of college-going rates and performance by race and income.

Several high school-related resources were provided at the DQC event and are also available on their Web site:[i]

  • Providing High School Feedback: This Data for Action 2011: DQC’s State Analysis fact sheet provides insight about states’ data capacity to provide feedback to high schools on students’ postsecondary success in order to determine the effectiveness of their college and career ready preparations in high school.
  • High School Feedback Information: An Analysis of States’ Current Efforts: This working document captures knowledge about states’ capacity to and progress in providing high school feedback information. This information is drawn from several sources, including Data for Action 2010: DQC’s State Analysis, states' federal SFSF Year 1 Reports, and additional research conducted in 2011 by DQC and Education Sector.
  • Supporting Early Warning Systems: This Data for Action 2011: DQC’s State Analysis fact sheet provides information on the number of states that collect and leverage student data to determine which students have the potential for dropping out of high school.
  • Using Data to Increase College and Career Readiness: A Primer for State Policymakers: Today’s global and knowledge-based economy demands that every student graduate from high school prepared for success in college and careers. Meanwhile, the nation’s fiscal and economic environment means that states, districts and schools have fewer resources to allocate. These new expectations — to do more than ever before, and to do it with less — require systemic changes and recalibrating the K–12 education system to the goal of graduating every student college and career ready.
  • Workforce Data Landscape: A fact sheet on workforce data systems that looks at questions such as: What individual-level employment data and workforce education and training program data could be useful for matching with K–12 education data?  How are individual-level employment data and workforce education and training program data currently collected and maintained?

More information about the event can be found on the DQC’s Web site:

[i] Descriptions provided by the DQC’s Web site description of the resource.

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.


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