U.S. K-12 Education System Is Failing to Leverage Benefits of Data to the Detriment of Student Outcomes
WASHINGTON—The U.S. K-12 education system has failed to harness the power of data to boost student performance and close achievement gaps in the same way that other sectors have already leveraged data to work more efficiently and effectively, according to a new report released today by the Center for Data Innovation. The Center, a think tank focused on data and public policy, urges policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels to overcome obstacles ranging from inadequate teacher training to poorly implemented statewide education data infrastructure to build a data-driven education system nationwide.
“Schools today are not very different than they were 50 years ago,” said Joshua New, the report’s author and a policy analyst at the Center. “While most Americans are empowered by data and technology in nearly every aspect of their lives, U.S. schools are largely failing to use data to transform and improve education. The U.S. K-12 education system is clearly falling short when it comes to both student performance and disparities in educational outcome, and better use of data has the potential to significantly improve how educators teach children and how administrators manage schools. It’s time to bring American K-12 education into the 21st century data economy.”
The new report proposes a vision for the U.S. education system that uses data to become more personalized, evidence-based, efficient, and innovative. Unfortunately, the Center points out, the United States has made little progress towards data-driven education due to considerable cultural, political, technological, and administrative barriers. These include institutional resistance, hostility to using data in the classroom, a lack of effective tools, inadequate teacher training, flawed data infrastructure, systemic “chicken-or-egg” challenges, and, perhaps most significantly, privacy fears, which are often unfounded but pervasive.
To overcome these challenges, the Center urges policymakers at all levels to accelerate the development of a data-driven education system by:
- Encouraging smarter data collection and management;
- Encouraging data system interoperability;
- Empowering students and parents with access to their data;
- Promoting data-driven decision-making;
- Pushing back against unfounded privacy fears;
- Developing a model data-driven school district; and
- Using data to promote equity in education.
“Just as other industries increasingly rely on data to make smarter decisions, operate more efficiently and fairly, and develop innovative new solutions to problems, education should embrace data, too. Failure to transform the U.S. education system by leveraging data will have considerable consequences not just for individual students and taxpayers, but for U.S. productivity growth and competitiveness. Without a more effective education system, productivity will grow more slowly and organizations will have a harder time getting the workforce they need. A data-driven education system is good for students, teachers, parents, taxpayers, and the entire economy.”