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Make data work for students with these four policy recommendations

Shannon Stagman

Shannon Stagman is Senior Program Director of Evaluation Services at ExpandED Schools.

How can we most effectively use data to drive policy and practice that supports student success? Researchers are always striving to answer this question, and the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), an independent advocacy organization, has just come forward with a new set of policy priorities to help push our collective efforts forward.  

Centered around the provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which creates standards for data collection systems among other things, DQC’s Four Policy Priorities to Make Data Work for Students offers guidance to states who want to go above and beyond the requirements of the law and make the most of the data they’ve amassed. The recommendations are as follows: 

  • Students are central. Data use should be targeted to support student learning.

  • Data systems are not enough. It’s important to go beyond building systems and instead empower people to use data to get results.

  • Data needs to be tailored to the user. Data access should be provided in a way that meets the needs of each unique group of stakeholders, including educators, parents and community members.

  • Data is used for different purposes. Different types of data can be used for transparency, accountability or improvement efforts, and we should take care to use the correct data for each.

  • Stakeholder engagement is critical. It is imperative that those who need useful data (i.e. educators, parents and community members) are involved in the creation of policy for data access and use. 

Here at ExpandED Schools, we’ve witnessed the truth of these principles firsthand. Data can be a powerful tool for improving student outcomes, but only if we’re prepared to understand how stakeholders use and understand it, and offer technical assistance that will strengthen their knowledge and confidence. Engaging stakeholders in every phase of the policy development process is key to making sure our data systems are responsive to their needs. 

DQC identifies four major opportunities for policy advancement that would make data work for students, aligned with the ESSA framework:

  • Measure What Matters. States should incorporate multiple measures of student success, and ensure that any measures they are using are valid and reliable. For instance, measuring how much a student has grown over time can provide parents a deeper understanding of how their child learns than simply measuring whether or not they have reached a particular benchmark.

  • Make Data Use Possible. Providing access to data, as well as training on how to better understand it, empowers educators and families to help keep students on trackstudents succeed. For instance, if educators are able to track chronic absence in a timely manner, they are better prepared to help keep students on track across the school year. 

  • Be Transparent and Earn Trust. Sharing data with families, and making that data understandable, is a vital part of increasing parent engagement in their children’s learning.   

  • Guarantee Access and Protect Privacy. States have the power go beyond ESSA and provide individual-level student data to educators and families while establishing strong privacy and security policies.

DQC offers detailed suggestions for following up on each of these opportunities, and we strongly encourage our partners to review them and think about what would work best for their schools. 



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