While education hasn’t gotten much air time in the 2016 election cycle, one common refrain from both parties is that all children deserve a high-quality education. The Data Quality Campaign (DQC), a nonprofit policy and advocacy organization designed to bring the education community together to empower educators, families, and policymakers, shares the goal of a high-quality education for every student.

To make that dream a reality, the DQC released District Actions to Make Data Work for Students, a report highlighting what policymakers can do to help students excel inside and outside of the classroom. The recommendations expand on the DQC’s four policy priorities from another recent report, Time to Act: Making Data Work for Students, which shows how districts can utilize the four priorities to improve student achievement.

The DQC believes that when administration, teachers, parents, and students have access to accurate, real-time information to make decisions, students excel. In its Time to Act report, the DQC laid out four key policy priorities to make data work for students:

  • Measure what matters: Be clear about what students must achieve and have the data to ensure that all students are on track to succeed.
  • Make data use possible: Provide teachers and leaders the flexibility, training, and support they need to answer their questions and take action.
  • Be transparent and earn trust: Ensure that every community understands how its schools and students are doing, why data is valuable, and how it is protected and used.
  • Guarantee access and protect privacy: Provide teachers and parents timely information on their students and make sure it is kept safe.

By adhering to the policy priorities, the DQC believes that students will be able to know that they are on track for success, or be able to identify if they have fallen off track and know how to rectify the situation. Similarly, parents will be able to hold the school accountable for meeting the student’s needs, and identify weak spots in need of additional enrichment activities. In the classroom, teachers will have a complete picture of each student’s progress. Plus, with increased analytics, teachers will be able to tailor lesson plans on an individual student level. School administration can use the data to provide better coaching and professional development for its staff and use the information to plan future investments and changes to the curriculum.

In its District Actions to Make Data Work for Students report, DQC lays out five principles that should guide a school district’s action to achieve the policy priorities:

  • Students are central. Data must be used to support student learning and to ensure that each student’s individual needs are met.
  • Data systems are not enough. States must shift their focus from building systems to empowering people.
  • Data needs to be tailored to the user. All stakeholders in education require quality information, but the type and grain size of the data they need depend on the needs of the individual.
  • Data is used for different purposes, including transparency, continuous improvement, and accountability. Not all data collected needs to be used for all three of these purposes.
  • Stakeholder engagement is critical. People who need the data–including teachers, principals, and parents–must be involved in the creation of policies for access and use.

When data is used properly in schools, it can help everyone do their job better. The DQC believes that by focusing on students and improving analytic capabilities, school districts enable success at all levels. To learn more about the DQC’s recommendations for school districts, view its infographic.

Read More About
More Topics
Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.