Which Students Succeed and Why?
“Thoughtful use of education data has tremendous potential to improve and address inequities in America’s education system. Scientists better understand how the brain incorporates new information and skills. Educators have a more accurate sense of student progress and potential risk for dropping out. Students and teachers use more detailed information about their strengths, weaknesses, and individual academic performance to diagnose and address learning gaps. Schools can correlate patterns with failing or dropping out, and intervene early with at-risk students. Districts and schools can use data to allocate resources and create institutional reform to better meet student needs in a world where students take increasingly personalized or non-traditional paths to graduation.”
Thus begins FPF’s newest paper, by Elana Zeide, which goes on to demonstrate the power of data to show school, districts, parents, and students, the trends and outcomes that are occurring, and inspire ways to make those outcomes better.
Student data, as part of the education record from each student’s school experience, is most importantly a tool for that student to reflect their achievements, and inform their future decisions. In addition, however, data across students and over time enables insights for teachers, administrators, districts, and states to identify trends, show patterns, and evaluate the success of educational changes to ensure that new programs or services achieve the desired results.
This paper identifies 19 studies – a relatively small sample – where data was successfully used to evaluate a program, create a new strategy, or delve into equity and bias issues. The appropriate protection and responsible use of student data in such studies is a fundamental value. But the power of data to shed light on current student and educational system outcomes and improve the opportunity for individual success is overwhelming.
New data analysis techniques provide the opportunities to understand and transform learning theory and practice. As Ms. Zeide concludes: “Properly used, mindfully implemented, and with appropriate privacy protections, student data is a tremendous resource to help schools fulfill the great promise of providing quality education for all.”