Transparent Student Data Can Transform Education

“Next generation textbooks will collect student data and will find the perfect strategy for every concept that a student will ever learn,” said Knewton’s Jose Ferreira  (@Knewton_Jose).  Speaking at the 2013 National Summit for Education Reform, Ferreira predicted that students will soon be producing millions of data points every day. “The time has come to get serious about the data and how it can be used to completely optimize every students school experience.”

“We need to unleash the power of data while simultaneously building trust and transparency,” said Aimee Rogstad Guidera (@DQCAimee), Founder and Executive Director of the Data Quality Campaign (DQC).

Tom Vander Ark (@Tvanderark) facilitated “Informed Decisions: Educators, Accountability and Next Generation Data Systems,” one of the closing sessions at #EIE13. Joining Ferreira and Guidera was Dr. Janet Barresi (@JanetBarresi), Oklahoma State Superintendent of Education and member of Chiefs for Change. The panel, along with full participation from the attendees, discussed how data can improve student learning, teacher effectiveness, and provider quality–and the safeguards that need to be in place to protect students.

Mick Hewitt from MasteryConnect said, “Data should inform instruction for teachers to personalize learning.” Gisele Huff, Hume Foundation, added that immediate feedback “should help individual students follow their learning plan and empower teachers to help students.” Other stakeholders contributed saying data needs to give unprecedented insight into how students are “doing” and provide parents with “actionable” information, current and immediate feedback that allows for targeted interventions and personalized learning plans.

For more than a decade Guidera and DQC have championed improvements to state data systems.  The DQC is attempting to change the conversation and culture around data by  helping teachers and parents see the benefits of student data collection.

Robyn Bagley described how Utah Personalizes Learning With Portable Records. Soon a portable transcript travel from grade to grade and school to school to help teachers personalize instruction from day one.

Barresi believes good data can have to transform teaching and student learning but at the same time fully recognizes the responsibility the districts have to protect their students’ privacy. “We are teaching children how to think not what to think.” Barresi explained that Oklahoma House Bill 1989, The Student Accessibility, Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013 provides transparency as to what data is collected, who will have access it and how it will be shared, will build trust among the community and then data can be used to transform the education experience.

The discussion demonstrated that for all those who see the power quality data holds to transform the classroom experience, they is equal concern about children’s privacy and teacher capacity. Guidera pointed to the Oregon Data Project, where teachers are realizing “data is flashlight, not a hammer.”

Tom concluded with three points:

  • As noted this week, there is growing concern about the privacy of mobile consumer apps–an issue that parents need to monitor and schools will need to watch as more students bring mobile devices to school.

  • As Michael Fullan has noted, data solutions for teachers and parents must be “irresistibly engaging,” simple and easy to use. The new Mastery Tracker from MasteryConnect is a step in the right direction.

  • The policy and privacy conversation must remain dynamic as tools improve and data collection increases.

For more on #EIE13, see:

Digital Learning Now is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner. MasteryConnect is a portfolio company of Learn Capital, where Tom is partner. 

Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson is a Media Specialist at The Madeleine School.

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