If the goal of the American education system is to "leave no child behind," as the cliché goes, then all 50 states need to be on board. They need to constantly check up on the progress of all their students, which means being willing to collect detailed information on their academic progress and assess their growth regularly.
According to an independent report that examined each state, there is progress being made on that front. The Data Quality Campaign looked at all 50 state governments and their ability to meet certain quantifiable benchmarks of academic progress, and there were noticeable improvements nearly across the board.
The organization has 10 different benchmarks for each state to meet, ranging from dropout rates to scores on standardized tests. Only two states - Arkansas and Delaware - met all 10, but the good news is there's been a concerted effort to pay more attention to education data.
US News and World Report noted that 41 of the 50 states are providing adequate funding to maintain their data systems - and even better, 46 are creating regular reports on their school systems and certain groups of students.
Aimee Rogstad Guidera, founder and executive director of the Data Quality Campaign, told US News that she's been thrilled to see progress on education data.
"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 achievements," Guidera said. "Data is only useful, and is only valued by people, if it's actually meeting their needs."
Not every state was successful. The news report noted that a few - including Alabama, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota - achieved three or fewer of the 10 benchmarks, well below the national average of 6.6 for the 2013 calendar year.
But the idea of emphasizing data quality in schools is still a fairly new one, and it's impressive that the movement has come so far in so little time.
"These systems really just came online by and large ... in the last five or six years," Paige Kowalski, the DQC's director of state policy and advocacy, told US News.
Data quality in school systems is vital. It can keep kids reading and doing math at their grade levels, prevent them from dropping out and eventually propel them into college. With accurate data benchmarking student progress, the sky is the limit in education.