A: Beyond Data First, there are some other good data resources out there for you to use.
Beyond Data First, there are some other good data resources out there for you to use. But how do you find them?
When you’re looking for a data source, here are some guidelines for you to follow.
- Who sponsors the data collection? Follow the money. Always consider who is funding the research or data collection.
- When was the data collected? Older data does not necessarily mean outdated data. For instance, longitudinal studies, which can follow students through college and beyond, obviously can’t be based on this year’s graduating class. But data is often collected cyclically, so check to see that you have the most recent data available.
- How big is the base? Statistics based off a hundred voluntary survey responses, for example, will be less reliable than a nationwide database of information that was required reporting.
- Consider the caveats. Reliable data sources are often quite careful to explain how they gathered information and what you can and cannot learn from it. Read and consider these explanations before you make conclusions based on the data.
With that said, here are a few other data sites we think are helpful:
- Data Quality Campaign: DQC exists to improve the quality of education data and its availability to educators, policymakers, parents and communities. Their annual report measures state progress in collecting data and supporting its use by stakeholders: http://www.dataqualitycampaign.org/
- The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) School District Demographic System: This online mapping tool allows users to view maps of states and school districts, while overlaying statistics on population and housing, race and ethnicity, economics and social characteristics. Located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences, NCES is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations: http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/sdds/ed/index.asp?st=CA
- The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) state and district NAEP analysis: NCES has a bunch of nifty interactive tools to help you analyze scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA). The State Comparisons site provides tables and maps that compare states and jurisdictions based on the average scale scores for selected groups of public school students within a single assessment year or across multiple years. District-level analysis is enabled through the District Profiles site, which presents results from the NAEP TUDA, making it possible to compare the performance of fourth through eighth-grade students in urban districts to public school students in large cities: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/statecomparisons/ and http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/districts/
- The Opportunity Gap: This interactive site was developed by ProPublica using data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. According to the designers, “This database includes all public schools in districts with more than 3,000 students from the 2009-2010 school year — about three-quarters of all such students in the country. Use it to find out how well your state provides poor and wealthier schools equal access to advanced classes that researchers say will help them later in life.”: http://projects.propublica.org/schools/
- School Budget Hold’em: This interactive “card game” by Education Resource Strategies is designed to help school leaders explore the tradeoffs they face in trying to balance shrinking school budgets and still improve student outcomes: http://www.erstrategies.org/resources/details/school_budget_holdem
- STEM Vital Signs: An easily navigated data base of state-level indicators of STEM demand and education performance from Change the Equation: http://vitalsigns.changetheequation.org/
- Strategic Data Project: Data tools for district level decision making complied by Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research. Follow this link for some cool infographs and data briefs: http://www.gse.harvard.edu/~pfpie/index.php/sdp/strategic-performance-indicators
- Return on Educational Investment: This interactive map by the Center for American Progress allows you to examine the relationship between educational investments and achievement by state and district. While CAP admits that the calculations are imperfect and cautions abound, we think it still provides a useful , if crude, way to look at productivity, especially when comparing ROI across districts: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/01/educational_productivity/index.html