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Data: An Essential Tool

“Sadly, too many people view (California's) diversity as a big problem. I don't. Instead, I say: Imagine! Imagine the potential of that diversity in today's—and tomorrow's—global economy. If we educate these students well, our state would not only be able to compete more effectively, but it would be able to lead our nation and the world economically. ”

—Jack O'Connell, California Superintendent of Public Instruction

Rationale

Data is an essential tool for schools and their partners as they work to close the achievement gap. Data can expose deficits in school and community capacity and gaps in student achievement. At the same time, data can identify community assets and capacities that can be used to address challenges.

Effective use of data enables school communities to learn more about their school, pinpoint successes and challenges, identify areas of improvement, and help evaluate the effectiveness of programs and practices. School–community partnerships should look at data from both sides of the partnership from the outset. For example, both school data (such as grades, test scores, and attendance) and community data (such as information about the number and location of children unsupervised after school) should be used in the partnership-planning process. Assessments indicate some of the strengths and challenges of the school's instructional program and of individual students. Comparative data across schools and districts help to identify promising practices.

Knowing how to analyze, interpret, and use data enables informed decisions to be made in all areas of education, ranging from professional development to student learning. As part of an ongoing cycle of collaborative reflection, schools and their partners study the feedback offered by data to measure results and improve effectiveness. Data helps partners decide when to stay the course and when to make changes.

Data builds a knowledge base for future action, and it builds momentum for change. Data can provide evidence of improvement in academic outcomes linked to partnership activities. As schools and their partners strive to close the achievement gap, data enables them to make better choices and uncover better ways of serving students and the community.

Resources & Tools

California Department of Education Data Quest
Reports for accountability (e.g., API, AYP), test data, enrollment, graduates, dropouts, course enrollments, staffing, and data regarding English learners are available at this site. School, district, county, and state-level reports may be generated. See "Making California Data Work" (below) for guidance.

Making California Data Work: A Parent and Community Guide (PDF)
This guide explains how to use data to understand how individual schools are doing and how to go about improving them, especially schools that serve high concentrations of students from low-income families and students of color.

Ed-Data—Education Data Partnership
How does your school compare with similar schools? How much do elementary districts typically spend on books and supplies? What are AYP and API all about? This site has answers to these and other frequently asked questions.

Children Now Report Card
Children Now's annual Report Card provides a comprehensive snapshot of the status of children in California.

Education Trust West, "Making California Data Work: A Parent and Community Guide to Finding the Truth in Data—An Easy Guide for Collecting and Analyzing California's School Data to Improve Student Achievement" 2008. (PDF)
This guide shows parents, students, advocates, educators, and other community stakeholders how conduct analyses of state performance and district-level data.

English Learners in California: What the Numbers Say
This 2008 report by EdSource describes the state's English learners, their primary languages, what grades they are in, and where they live. (Free download)

Raising African American Student Achievement: California Goals, Local Outcomes
This 2008 report by EdSource looks at how African American students in California’s public K–12 system doing and discusses what we know about how and where these students are succeeding academically. (Free download)

The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools
McKinsey's report examines the dimensions of four distinct gaps in education: (1) between the United States and other nations, (2) between black and Latino students and white students, (3) between students of different income levels, and (4) between similar students schooled in different systems or regions. The report and supporting material (data) are free to download at this site.

California Healthy Kids Survey
The California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) is administered to students to gather and report information on behaviors such as physical activity and nutritional habits; alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use; school safety; and environmental and individual strengths.

California School Climate Survey
California School Climate Survey (CSCS) is administered to school staff. It is used in conjunction with the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) to provide schools with information about perceptions on substance use, school safety, health, and youth development.