Collecting data on individual students over time may give educators the insight they need to fix America's schools.
Here's one reason why No Child Left Behind is all but a failed initiative: One of its main metrics, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), is a horrendous measure of educational progress.
With AYP, each state sets its own goals and assesses progress with its own metric. If one state meets AYP and another one does not, it's impossible to make a comparison. NCLB relied on data for improvement, but that data was so unscientific that it hardly had a chance at success.
But, as a report from the Data Quality Campaign released today concludes, we may be on the verge of meaningful, data-backed reforms. Many states and school districts now have the capability to track individual students longitudinally, which means educators can compile electronic data of a student's yearly progress. In the aggregate, this information is invaluable as it pinpoints, rather than guesses at, the crucial milestones that mark the path toward higher-ed or career success.
If this makes education sound a lot like a business -- with growth models and performance reviews -- that's because, in a way, it is. Making good business decisions requires good data, but education hasn't always had access to that. "We've been asking them to do all these great things without giving them any feedback on what they are doing," Guidera says of America's schools.
It's an approach that appears to be working, at least anecdotally. Kentucky has been tracking its students' progress longitudinally since the early 2000s. From 2002 to 2008, Kentucky students saw significant increases in college readiness, and decreases in the need for remediation upon reaching college, according to the Data Quality Campaign.