The Data Opportunity is Spelled DQC, DLN & Ed-Fi Alliance

By Aimee Rogstad Guidera, Lori Fey, John Bailey, Tom Vander Ark
This decade offers a historic opportunity to boost student learning.  New tools are powering new schools and transforming learning, assessment, matriculation, and teaching.  Four transformational shifts underway include:

  • flat and sequential content to engaging and adaptive experiences
  • annual dipstick tests to instant feedback
  • cohorts to competency-based progress
  • individual practitioners to informed teams

Data is behind each of these shifts–the right information at the right time in the right format.  What will it take to transform US education so that all students and teachers benefit from better data?  We think it will take leadership at every level.
National Leadership. The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the Data Quality Campaign, and Digital Learning Now! are just three of the organizations advocating for better data systems and effective data use.
Today the Dell Family Foundation is announcing the formation of the Ed-Fi Alliance, a new nonprofit organization “committed to distributing a superior, standards-based, educator-facing free data solution.” The Ed-Fi solution is a vendor-neutral, open, XML-based data specification designed to integrate information from a broad range of existing sources. The Ed-Fi solution extracts student information from a variety of educational data systems, and then standardizes, integrates and communicates it to educators and other parties through Web-based dashboards, reports and other applications.  Ten states license the Ed-Fi solution directly and four additional states benefit from partnerships with inBloom, which uses Ed-Fi XML interchanges to support states’ and districts’ adoption of personalized learning tools.
The Data Quality Campaign, launched in 2005 by 10 partners, now leads a partnership of nearly 100 organizations committed to realizing the vision of an education system in which all stakeholders—from parents to policymakers—are empowered with high-quality data from the early childhood, K–12, postsecondary, and workforce systems to make decisions that ensure every student graduates high school prepared for success in college and the workplace.
Digital Learning Now! created a 10 element state policy framework that embraces the potential of digital learning–all 10 elements rely on a great longitudinal data system.  DLN is releasing a Smart Series paper every month on critical digital learning topics.  The second paper Data Backpacks: Portable Records & Learner Profiles detailed next steps for states.  Updated state report cards will be issued this month.
State Progress.  DQC recently issued a state policy analysis, Data for Action 2012: Focus on People to Change Data Culture.  Although no state has all 10 Actions, states made progress toward implementing each of the 10 State Actions from 2011 to 2012:

  • All states have at least one Action, showing a commitment to working toward effective data use.
  • Twelve states gained two or more Actions, making strides in supporting effective data use (Alaska, District of Columbia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Wyoming).
  • Ten states have eight or nine of the Actions, a substantial increase from four states in 2011 (Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina, Ohio, and Oregon join Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, and Texas).

States have made the biggest gains in the past year on providing policy and funding support for their data systems, developing data governance structures, and creating reports on individual and groups of students.
However, states are lagging in linking data across state agencies, providing stakeholders such as parent’s access to data, and ensuring that educators know how to use data appropriately.
States should:

  • Implement all 10 DQC State Actions to Ensure Effective Data Use.
  • Adopt the Ed-Fi standards and join the Ed-Fi Alliance.
  • Adopt the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning from DLN.

District and school leaders should:

By making data a priority, states and districts can improve transparency, system performance and, most importantly, student achievement.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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