Why Data Matters

Rishawn Biddle:

Two things can be said about California’s state government when it comes to its efforts on school data. The first? That the Golden State has always blundered when it comes to developing robust comprehensive data systems that can be easily used by families, school leaders, researchers, and policymakers. As I reported seven years ago in A Byte At the Apple: Rethinking Education Data for the Post-NCLB Era, bureaucratic incompetence, failures to fully fund development of data systems, and the byzantine structure of state education governance have all combined to ensure that none of California’s data systems provide the comprehensive longitudinal data that is needed to spur systemic reform. Little wonder why California only implemented four of the 10 standards for high-quality data systems set by the Data Quality Campaign in 2012 — and why it hasn’t participated in the organization’s evaluations for the past two years.

The second: That affiliates of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, along with traditional districts within the Golden State, have worked together to make it even harder for families or anyone to gain any data on school and student performance at all, much less anything that is simple-yet-comprehensive. Four years ago, the Big Two successfully convinced Gov. Jerry Brown to kibosh development of the CalTIDES teacher performance data system (and ending efforts to use objective student test score growth data in evaluating how instructors are improving student achievement). Last year, the Big Two and traditional districts successfully convinced Brown and state legislators to pass Assembly Bill 484, which all but gutted the state’s accountability systems — under the guise of implementing Common Core reading and math standards — by eviscerating all but four of the state’s battery of exams.