It’s becoming clear that it’s just never going to be enough to build data systems, hand users the keys and let them have at it. The funny thing about data is that we look at data and think that’s the result. Then things get fuzzy as we dissect the data and try to figure out how to implement a solution that changes the direction of data that seems to show a decline in school performance or student outcomes. There’s often a logjam in the bureaucracy that keeps the right training from being disseminated to the end-user, and there’s often a flow problem — where the right data is not given to the right policy maker to make something positive happen.

Spoke this morning with Aimee Guidera, Executive Director of the Data Quality Campaign, which is self-described as “a national, collaborative effort to encourage and support state policymakers to improve the availability and use of high-quality education data to improve student achievement.” We spoke about the right metaphor for the data systems problem. For Guidera, it’s a car.

The development of new grants for school districts and the ARRA funding push from earlier this year has combined with the Race to the Top game and put a lot of political will behind building Longitudinal Data Systems that channel information. States reacted, started building their systems, or they finished up what they started long ago. Many of them ended up with a really nice bright and shiny LDS.

“With the technical pieces of it the states are doing well in building that out, but that the greater challenge is on changing human behavior. Some states have built these Maseratis, but who cares if nobody knows where to go and how to drive,” Guidera says. “You have got to build these systems to meet the needs and demands of all the people in this system. They have to be driven by policy makers and decisions makers.”

Though some stand out: Here’s a list of “Data Leaders,” who have done well. Peter Gorman, Superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System won an award last year.

I’ll be returning to this soon. As fights over tenure, and scrutiny from the public about how teachers teach our students builds, data is important.

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