Monday, December 16, 2013

What Every Parent Should Be Asking about Education Data

Schools and districts collect a lot of information about students. Empowered parents should demand to get value out of these data. Here are questions you can ask of your school officials to ensure that your child is on track to graduate college and career ready:

1. I already have my child’s grades and test scores, so what more do I need?

  • You may have some information about your child, but this doesn’t tell you how your child is doing over time, how they compare to kids in other schools, and if they’re going to be ready for college or a job.
  • Your child’s teacher uses your child’s data to understand your child’s learning and teach to their needs and strengths. Your child’s school uses data to make sure your child is on track to graduate.
  • Example: Early warning systems provide information to educators and families about whether students need extra help. Parents and teachers can use this information to help students improve their performance.

Tip: When you meet with your child’s teacher for a parent-teacher conference, make sure you child’s teacher uses data beyond just test scores to have a productive conversation with you about your child’s strengths and weaknesses.

2. Why does the state collect student data? Can’t my district just do it?

  • States can do things districts can’t, like follow children when they move across district lines and connect high school data to college records.
  • Also, because states provide services on a larger scale, they can better employ technical expertise and have more purchasing power to adopt better technology and security than most districts.
  • Example: When a child moves across district lines, the state can electronically transfer transcripts in real time so that the child doesn’t lose instructional time repeating lessons or trying to make up missed material.

Tip: Request information about how your school district compares to others in the state and how children in your district fare in college.

3. As we implement state standards aligned to the Common Core, what can I expect to change with regard to data collection or use?

  • Common Core is a set of grade-level expectations and doesn’t require states or districts to collect any new data.
  • With comparable expectations across states, states will be able to better use the data they have to make comparisons to other states and determine what programs, interventions, and pathways lead to success.
  • Example: With comparable expectations, state data is comparable across state lines. Your state can better understand how well third graders in your state are reading compared to third graders in other states—and what those states might be doing better.

Tip: Ask your school’s leaders how they plan to use Common Core assessment data to help students.
What Are Education Data?
Education data means any type of information (like student attendance, demographics, or success in college and the workforce) that helps parents, educators, and policymakers make informed decisions about education. For more information on how education data can help parents, educators, and education leaders, please see
 Source: National PTA, August 2013


  1. I am very curious about who is suggesting that THESE are the questions parents should ask. I am a teacher PTA member. I can tell you that there is quite a bit of misinformation in this blog post. I am also a parent. As both a parent myself, and having talked to literally thousands of parents over the years, I can't recall any parents who have asked me how their children were doing "over time" or how they compare to kids in other schools. They want to know how they're doing in my class. As for if they're going to be ready for college or a job, the idea that standardized test performance will tell us this information is very questionable at best. As a teacher, I am NOT able to use any student's data to understand their learning or teach to their needs and strengths. I don't even get the data until the following year. Looking at my current student's data from previous years tells me very little. This entire blog post is a very poor attempt at a whitewash sales job, and is quite infuriating.

    What parents REALLY SHOULD be asking is: Why are the teachers who are the most knowledgeable about children also the most concerned about an excessive focus on data collection? Why do we no longer seem to value educational experiences that do not readily yield quantifiable data (art, music, field trips, etc.)? Who will decide what to do with the data that is collected, what it means, and what end it serves? Who is behind the push to collect all of this education data? What safeguards are in place to protect our children's privacy, and to prevent outside parties from accessing it to track, label or market to kids? Just for starters.

  2. Grades, not data and test scores, should be the focus. I wish organizations would stop telling parents what they should be thinking, Most parents have been to school and know what matters most for their own children.