1. Create Connections with Interoperable Data Systems
One of the challenges facing school districts currently is the massive amount of information that is readily available but spread across various systems. Educators with different classes and different students may have one program for math and another for reading and a third for test scores.
“Without interoperability, to get a sense of how students are doing, they would need to log in to all of those different platforms to see how they’re progressing,” says Elise Hawthorne, technical support and implementation lead with Project Unicorn. “But with interoperable systems that are able to smoothly transfer data, you have the ability to see all of that information in one place.”
With interoperable data systems, teachers can more easily see the students’ data collectively. This gives educators a better overview of where students might be struggling or doing especially well. Having data systems that work together also makes the information more accessible to educators. “Data interoperability can do a lot to really help increase equitable student achievement,” Hawthorne says.
2. Make Data Accessible to Stakeholders
Collecting student data — and having the right programs to do so — is only effective if that information is then available to the appropriate stakeholders. Teachers may possess all the available data on students but to create an effective culture shift, as Sampson discusses in his Q&A, more stakeholders need to understand the information and be willing to enact change.
“School districts have the opportunity to turn data on for parents too, and not enough school districts are treating parents as partners in their students’ data,” says Brennan Parton, vice president of policy and advocacy for the Data Quality Campaign. “The real value of technology is the ease of communication, the speed at which everyone with a stake in student learning can have that information at their fingertips.”
Parton notes that this is true in many of the programs schools are already using. Whether it’s a learning management system or longitudinal student records, schools often overlook the benefits of sharing information with the right people.
3. Protect Student Data with Secure Systems
There’s a fine line between sharing and protecting student data. While it’s important to ensure parents and district stakeholders have access to students’ information, there is also an element of security that must be maintained. The right systems keep student data protected, so there is no additional risk in providing the data to parents and other educators.
“Having to email files with student data is definitely not the most secure way to do that,” Hawthorne says. “Being able to have data passed between secure systems enables more security measures to be taken and also provides the confidence to families that student data will be kept secure. Keeping those strong privacy measures is important for building trust in those relationships too.”
Protecting student data, and protecting the trust of students’ families, also requires the ethical use of data. The point of curating student data is not to judge a student based on past performance, but rather to help them continue to learn and grow, Parton notes.