The Real School Data That Parents Must Have
Education never lacks for data; there’s plenty to go around.
Mandated to share performance data, schools routinely distribute information to parents about their child’s academic achievement. Measuring effectiveness and quality doesn’t stop there. Federal and state laws require the schools publically report their failures as well as their successes, in the form of “school report cards” and financial fitness statements.
Many parents find the data overwhelming, whereas their children’s’ schools find parent response underwhelming.
The reasons for this response include failure to understand how to interpret the results, poor data quality, and not knowing the data is available.
Data dashboards can be an excellent way to convey information about progress and achievement. States like Georgia, Michigan, and Texas have eagerly adopted the tool to help teachers, students, and parents analyze and interpret academic growth.
The dashboards integrate information from a variety of sources, including online assessment, instructional software, and observations to measure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Whether schools develop their own data dashboards with free templates or use an edtech solution like iDashboards, there are several components to consider.
- What is being measured?
Parents need to know what the numbers on the dashboard represent. Formative data (the kind used for determining next instruction) is different than summative data (used to measuring achievement). Similarly, the dashboard should reveal how well an individual performs on learning objectives. Grades are only one aspect of reported data, as is attendance.
- Is the dashboard easy to understand?
Education dashboards are useful only when parents can understand them without needing a graduate-level statistics course. The dashboard should be simple, include icons, use few colors, and appear uncluttered. Less is more.
- Does the dashboard operate in real time or does it lag – a lot?
Remember getting semester reports? By then, it was too late to intervene. The most useful education dashboard information is current and up-to-date. Updating data daily — or even weekly – is fine in most cases. Keep in mind that accuracy is always more important than frequency.
Accurate and easy-to-understand dashboards make it more likely that parents will be able to assess their child’s progress and intervene as necessary. They’ll also be more likely to assess how well the school is doing compared to similar in the district, the state, and nationally.
The moment anyone starts talking about data transparency, we tend to be skeptical. These two words – data transparency – seem to be an oxymoron because most parents can’t find the data they need to gauge their child’s progress or evaluate school effective effectiveness.
Parents have the right to know how their child is performing, as well as how that performance stacks up against other children and schools as long as the data about others is masked. No one should be able to identify an individual child based on a reported data element.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that students, families, educators and communities receive information vital to measuring progress toward meeting rigorous academic goals.
Beyond the data dashboard
Finally, remember that learning is the result of the relationships between the teacher and the student. As necessary as the numbers are for setting goals and meeting accountability, data has to take a back seat to the connections made in the classroom and to the community beyond.