Data may be everywhere, but the systems to access and use the data are disconnected and many times impossible to use. Many systems aren’t even designed to provide teachers—or students and their families—with access. And much of the data—in particular, scores on annual state tests—are not useful or appropriate for informing day-to-day classroom instruction.
Historically, the collection of data has been top-down, designed almost exclusively to show compliance with state and federal regulations. And while the amount of data collected continues to grow—for example, Texas school districts respond to 104 data collections by the state each year, costing the districts in excess of $300 million—their quality and usefulness are questionable.
The Dell Foundation’s new Ed-Fi, a free, interoperable data standard, is an important step in the right direction. Working with educators in Texas, New York City, and other cities across the country, the Foundation learned first-hand that despite the massive amount of data collected, it was difficult to get truly useful information into teachers’ hands. The beauty behind Ed-Fi is that it helps to leverage the data that is already there — with a focus on ensuring that the right information makes it to the classroom.