Getting Education Data Right

Every day we are saturated with data from our phones, our computers, our cars and our refrigerators. Big data have changed the way we receive our health care, find transportation, buy things and communicate with our family and friends.

We can argue whether all this data helps or hurts our quality of life. The fact is we do need to sort through information and make meaning of it; and if we can do so, we have the opportunity to use it to improve our lives.

IRRE has been developing and refining an approach to using data in education for the past 30 years. Together with our partner schools, districts, foundations, and policy makers we have been trying to collect and report the best information we can, and use it to improve education.

The Getting Education Data Right series talks about 8 core principles we have distilled from our work and how we apply these principles to gather, report and use data more effectively to improve education. 

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TED Radio Hour’s “The Big Data Revolution”

Getting Education Data Right

Every day we are saturated with data from our phones, our computers, our cars and our refrigerators. Big data have changed the way we receive our health care, find transportation, buy things and communicate with our family and friends.

We can argue whether all this data helps or hurts our quality of life. The fact is we do need to sort through information and make meaning of it; and if we can do so, we have the opportunity to use it to improve our lives.

IRRE has been developing and refining an approach to using data in education for the past 30 years. Together with our partner schools, districts, foundations, and policy makers we have been trying to collect and report the best information we can, and use it to improve education.

The Getting Education Data Right series talks about 8 core principles we have distilled from our work and how we apply these principles to gather, report and use data more effectively to improve education. 

The 8 Principles: A Primer

We have had to learn important lessons about every aspect of using data in education. How to collect it; how to assemble and report it in compelling ways; and how to make sure it is useful to educators – to name a few. Guiding these efforts have been four fundamental questions:

• What does it mean to say a student is getting a high quality education?

• How do we know a good classroom, school, district, or system when we see one?

• What defines meaningful improvement for a student, classroom, school, or district?

• How can good information on education quality be used to improve education quality?

 

A Paradigm Shift

 

We’ve seen some important themes emerge in our work that signal the need, we believe, for a paradigm change. Specifically, our approach to defining and measuring education quality differs from others that we have encountered in four important ways:

First, we include not only students’ and educators’ accomplishments but also factors that enable them to achieve those accomplishments.

Second, we include only valid and reliable measures of factors that actually make a difference for student success and that educators can affect.

Third, we do not compare students, teachers, schools, districts, or states to one another; rather, we compare findings on educational quality to absolute standards at all these levels.

Fourth, seek to design innovative, interactive report formats and visualizations that make results more timely, user-driven, and actionable.

These four differences outline the paradigm shift that we think needs to continue happening in order to provide educators, investors in education, and consumers with a high caliber of information to help them make decisions, guide their actions, and gauge the impact of their efforts

It has taken every bit of our experience to learn how to collect and assemble the right measures, make hard decisions with our partners about what matters most and how good is good enough, analyze the information in credible and sensible ways, and report results comprehensively and clearly.

 

Guiding our efforts to gather and use data have been four fundamental questions:

• What does it mean to say a student is getting a high quality education?
• How do we know a good classroom, school, district, or system when we see one?
• What defines meaningful improvement for a student, classroom, school, or district?
• How can good information on education quality be used to improve education quality?

 

We’ve been in a unique position – as researchers, technical assistance providers, and advisors –to continually identify, quantify, and strengthen the standards by which education at every level uses (or doesn’t use) data to improve. We’ve seen some important themes emerge that signal the need, we believe, for a paradigm change.

 

Specifically, our approach to defining and measuring education quality differs from others that we have encountered in four important ways:

First, we include not only students’ and educators’ accomplishments but also factors that enable them to achieve those accomplishments.

Second, we include only valid and reliable measures of factors that actually make a difference for student success and that educators can affect.

Third, we do not compare students, teachers, schools, districts, or states to one another; rather, we compare findings on educational quality to absolute standards at all these levels.

Fourth, seek to design innovative, interactive report formats and visualizations that make results more timely, user-driven, and actionable.

 

These four differences outline the paradigm shift that we think needs to continue happening in order to provide educators, investors in education, and consumers with a high caliber of information to help them make decisions, guide their actions, and gauge the impact of their efforts

The Principles

The following eight principles will be introduced and explored individually in the Getting Education Data Right series. These principles have emerged from our work and have guided the ongoing refinement of our own Measuring What Matters tools. However, we think these principles can have great value to educators no matter what system or tools they use to collect, report, and consume data.

Principle 1:
Measure what students accomplish and what it takes to get them there.

Education quality should not be restricted to test scores or to any other set of student performance measures. Quality information should also include students’ actual learning experiences, the educational practices they encounter, the quality of the support their educators receive, and the system conditions required for their success.

Principle 1:
Measure what students accomplish and what it takes to get them there.

Education quality should not be restricted to test scores or to any other set of student performance measures. Quality information should also include students’ actual learning experiences, the educational practices they encounter, the quality of the support their educators receive, and the system conditions required for their success.

Principle 2:
Measure what matters and what’s movable, and measure it well.

Include only measures we know are reliable and valid, make a difference for student success and can be improved through the efforts of educators.

Principle 2:
Measure what matters and what’s movable, and measure it well.

Include only measures we know are reliable and valid, make a difference for student success and can be improved through the efforts of educators.

Principle 3:
Good educational data will capture key attributes of the work of each student, educator, classroom, school, and district, not just a typical or average result.

It is not enough to say “on average.” We need to know how many and which students, teachers, schools, and districts are performing at different quality levels.

Principle 3:
Good educational data will capture key attributes of the work of each student, educator, classroom, school, and district, not just a typical or average result.

It is not enough to say “on average.” We need to know how many and which students, teachers, schools, and districts are performing at different quality levels.

Principle 4:
Make education quality about succeeding, not winning.

Education data that compare students, teachers, or districts tell us little about quality and even less about how to improve it. Determine absolute standards of what constitutes quality, then assess the most current status of each student, school, district, or state against those standards.

Principle 4:
Make education quality about succeeding, not winning.

Education data that compare students, teachers, or districts tell us little about quality and even less about how to improve it. Determine absolute standards of what constitutes quality, then assess the most current status of each student, school, district, or state against those standards.

Principle 5:
Assess progress toward absolute quality standards, but keep progress information separate from current status.

Establish clear benchmarks for adequate movement toward ultimate goals during a given time period, and report progress against these growth standards.

Principle 5:
Assess progress toward absolute quality standards, but keep progress information separate from current status.

Establish clear benchmarks for adequate movement toward ultimate goals during a given time period, and report progress against these growth standards.

Explore Measuring What Matters.

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