Two new polls show that parents and teachers are in step when it comes to their beliefs on data in education. Both groups think data can help them make important decisions for students.
The polls were commissioned by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Data Quality Campaign and carried out by the Harris Poll. One poll asked 842 parents with children between the ages of 5-17 who are in public school for their thoughts; the other focused on 762 full-time K-12 teachers in public school.
The latter poll found that the vast majority of teachers monitor a variety of data about students to keep track of their progress—despite challenges in using it.
Specifically, 95 percent of teachers use a combination of academic data (such as test scores and graduation rates) and nonacademic data (such as attendance and classroom behavior). Almost the same number said they use data to “trigger early support” for struggling students, and 91 percent said they use data to help students get back on a successful path. More than 80 percent said they think using data is an important part of being an effective educator, and that they believe their students benefit from data-informed instruction.
They had thoughts on personalized learning too. 89 percent of teachers said they use data to customize learning for students (the poll also found that personalization in their child’s education is something 94 percent of parents want).
But while teachers think education data is valuable, they struggle to use it. Why? 57 percent of respondents cited time constraints, a third think there’s simply too much data and a quarter said the data isn’t accessible in a timely manner.
Teachers think higher-ups can help, with 46 percent responding that they think principals are most responsible for making sure teachers have time to use the data, and 44 percent saying the same for district leadership or superintendents.
“By and large a teacher’s schedule is driven largely by the contract that a district negotiates with a teacher union,” says Paige Kowalski, DQC’s executive vice president. “So there’s a lot of work to be done locally around how teachers spend their time.”
However, Kowalski thinks states have a role to play as well. They need to support districts and schools to ensure that teachers have actionable data in a timely manner, and the necessary knowledge and training to use that data.
Parents also view education data positively—95 percent said they support teachers’ use of data, 93 percent said they need data to help their kids “do their best” and 90 percent said a school’s performance rating helps them make decisions about their kids’ education.
Kowalski thinks it’s hard for parents to find and navigate information on school performance—something that can limit both its use and effectiveness. She notes past research DQC has done on school report cards.
“We were a little surprised to find that of the parents who have not used a school report card in the past year, half of them simply didn’t know they existed and couldn’t find them,” she says. “I think that really is a signal to the field that we have to do more to raise awareness with parents that information about their school exists.”