By Emily Iles

Teachers in New York found that their existing data tracking wasn’t doing enough –so a teacher at Validus Preparatory Academy in the Bronx created a new system. Now they’re able to track students’ attendance throughout the day to identify students who are checking in, but skipping other classes. The new system, Impact, lets teachers note student behavior, grades and skills. The data being tracked is more useful to teachers day-to-day, more accessible to parents, and still provides aggregate data required by law.

Another group from Leon Goldstein High School in Brooklyn decided to create their own data program using a $300 software program called Filemaker. They customized it to help teachers collect the data their school felt was important to track.

But while there are a number of data systems schools can choose from, one of the things we should focus on is how school data is used. The Data Quality Campaign rates several aspects of Missouri’s longitudinal data (tracking individual students over time), and one of the components that Missouri doesn’t have in place is a measure of what indicators (like enrollment in certain courses) best predict success in college.

Now, even though Missouri tracks how many graduates end up needing remedial coursework in college, that data isn’t available on DESE’s site. I did eventually find a report from the Department of Higher Education that says 36.4% of Missouri students take remedial coursework in college.

If we expect to tackle this and other problems head-on, we need data that can identify courses, practices and teachers that are, for instance, preparing kids for college without remedial courses. Missouri has a long way to go before we have data that can be analyzed and can effectively influence policy and inform school/district-level decisions.

I’m afraid when we talk about data on schools, the only angle that comes to mind is pointing out failure, but the real goal of good data is identifying and sharing what is working, then using it to help all Missouri students succeed.