Report reveals usage 
of student data tracking

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In Pennsylvania, it’s called the PAsecure ID.

It’s a unique identifier assigned to students so that data can be tracked and studied yet students can remain anonymous.

All K-12 public school students have had such a number since 2006-07. Students enrolled in community colleges and the state System of Higher Education have had one since 2008-09. And children receiving publicly funded pre-kindergarten services got one in the 2010-11 school year.

Across the nation, similar unique identifiers are being tracked to gauge student progress, assist policymakers and help teachers better understand student needs.

The Data Quality Campaign, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that advocates for high-quality data, today is releasing a state-by-state comparison showing how far states have come in developing and using the data.

Aimee Rogstad Guidera, founder and executive director of the Data Quality Campaign that was launched in 2005, said having unique identifiers is “No. 1” in the data system.

She said it’s important to have data available to help teachers and policymakers but privacy and security must be maintained.

She believes the data can help teachers personalize learning, thus helping to better prepare students for the “knowledge economy.”

She noted that 44 states — including Pennsylvania — now match K-12 student data with postsecondary data so schools can see how their graduates do in college.

“Having this feedback loop is critical,” she said. “They’ve never had it before.”

Some parents have expressed concern over the data being collected.

Ms. Guidera said “we all need to do a better job” of helping the public understand what is being collected, for what purpose, why it’s valuable, how it is useful to parents and measures to maintain privacy and security. She said the data need to be communicated to parents.

She likened parents who opt their children out of tests — which provide some of the data — to parents who refuse vaccinations for their children. She said opting out by some parents causes the “whole system” to spend more time, money and energy.

The report aims at encouraging a variety of state actions regarding education data collection. So far, two states have met the organization’s standards: Arkansas and Delaware.

The campaign would like to see more states — including Pennsylvania — link K-12 data with workforce data annually, which 19 states do; share teacher performance data automatically at least annually with in-state teacher preparation programs, which 17 states do; and provide parents, teachers and appropriate stakeholders better access to student-level longitudinal data, which 14 states do.

Pennsylvania and most states got credit for building a K-12 data repository; linking K-12 and early childhood data; providing state reports that use student-level and aggregate longitudinal data; training teachers and principals to use and interpret certain reports; and making data privacy and security policies public.

The website for the Data Quality Campaign is www.dataqualitycampaign.org.


Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.

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