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Better Standards + Better Assessment = Better Data

This post is written by Brennan McMahon from the Data Quality Campaign and was originally posted to The Score Sheet on 5/17/2012.  Permission has been granted  by the DQC to re-publish this excellent piece that explores the role of high-quality data in the implementation of the Common Core.

 

The Common Core has the power to enrich data-driven decisionmaking at all levels

Implementation of the Common Core State Standards has begun, and new aligned assessments are on the horizon. Nation-wide state departments of education, teachers, principals, superintendents, have been working to ensure that educators are ready to teach based on the new standards. Meanwhile, some nerdy people called psychometricians are preparing by developing quality assessments to measure how our students are learning against the new standards. We are counting on the fact that the new assessments will be of higher quality than the tests states use now, and will therefore have positive implications for the data states use to inform important decisions. Of course, tests scores are just one of many important data points stakeholders at every level use to make decisions, but right now they are a pretty big piece of the data pie.

Because test scores are important data points for many stakeholder decisions, it is good news that these data points will soon be higher quality. While every state continues to work to build quality data systems, Common Core assessments provide the opportunity to improve on some of the data that we already have.

While pondering Common Core and its impact, I started to draw myself a picture of how we use data to drive decisionmaking in education and have included it here. Don’t worry; I translated my scrawling into something more reader-friendly.

 

At the bottom of the pyramid you’ll find a subset of the types of data points we use in education, including the test scores necessary for calculating student growth. In the second tier are some of the many ways states are now using all these data, such as teacher evaluations. And finally, in the top tier are questions stakeholders need to answer using these data.

If you will allow me a metaphor here, imagine that the base of this pyramid – the data points – is the foundation for the entire rest of the structure. The stronger the parts that make the foundation, the more sound the pyramid will be. By implementing new, quality assessments based on the Common Core State Standards, we are strengthening the foundation of the data-driven decisionmaking pyramid by making its foundation stronger. Consequently, stakeholders, from teachers to policymakers, will be better equipped to make the hundreds of decisions they need to make every day (my pyramid has not even scratched the surface of all the questions stakeholders need to have answered!) because they have higher quality data on which to base their thinking.

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