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Education leaders call for high standards of data quality

Paul Newman

November 27, 2013

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All across the United States, education departments are focused on channeling higher levels of data quality into better results. By gathering accurate information on student progress, state public school authorities can find ways to guarantee fewer children will be left behind. The goal is to get more students to graduation - or better yet, into college - and data-driven reports can assess each state's progress.

One success story on this front comes out of North Carolina, which has been one of the top-performing states in terms of compiling high-quality data about the efforts undertaken by its Department of Education. The Data Quality Campaign, an independent organization assessing the 50 states, laid out 10 actions that each education department should be taking, and according to the Duke Chronicle, North Carolina met eight of them. They included linking disparate data systems and raising awareness of available public data.

"We have to focus on what people's questions are if we truly want to make sure that data is not just data sitting on the shelf, that it is actionable information that meets people's needs," Data Quality Campaign founder and executive director Aimee Guidera told the newspaper.

Taking action
One overarching goal of the education data quality movement is to build a bridge from kindergarten straight through to college graduation. School systems strive to propel as many students as possible into higher education, and they're hoping that accurate data can help them figure out how.

The Chronicle reported that linking K-12 data with college and career data was indeed a primary focus in the DQC's report. Furthermore, the organization wants states to streamline access so that everyone - students, parents, teachers and government officials included - can be involved. States that take these actions most effectively, the organization says, will reap the most benefits.

"What we've really seen this year as one of the biggest changes is focusing on getting the appropriate access of the right data to the right people at the right time with the end goal of improving student achievement," Guidera said.

North Carolina in particular has done well with data, but almost all states have the potential to raise their game. Most education departments have access to basic indicators of academic success - standardized test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment rates, to name a few. By doing more to ensure accuracy with this data and translate their findings into results, all states can do right by their children.

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