Analysis: There’s Lots of Education Data Out There — and It Can Be Misleading. Here Are 6 Questions to Ask
6 Is it being used responsibly?
Data can be powerful, but it’s important to consider how it is being used. Is it being interpreted in a way that supports a specific agenda or to perpetuate a certain narrative? Is it being used to inform decision-making and improve educational outcomes for all students?
For example, a school district could use data on student attendance to identify patterns of chronic absenteeism and develop targeted interventions to address this issue. However, if the same data is used to unfairly label and stigmatize certain student groups, it is being used irresponsibly.
In conclusion, data can provide valuable insights and help address inequities in education. However, it is crucial to approach data with critical thinking and consider its representativeness, disaggregation, sample size, limitations, what it is measuring, and how it is being used. By doing so, we can ensure that data is used effectively and responsibly to support all students in their educational journey.
The presence of bias in a question has the potential to impact the responses given by individuals in a survey, reinforcing preconceived beliefs and failing to capture the complete picture.
How can you provide a contextual understanding of the data?
It is important to recognize that no single piece of data can provide a comprehensive representation of a situation. When drawing conclusions about the performance of students or the preferences of families, it is crucial to consider multiple metrics. While math and reading proficiency can offer valuable insights into academic performance, it is equally important to consider other data points such as attendance rates, disciplinary actions, graduation rates, surveys, and other forms of feedback. By incorporating a range of data, we can gain a more holistic understanding of the situation. Additionally, it is essential to remember the purpose of collecting education data. It should not solely serve as a means to look back, but rather as a starting point for meaningful conversations involving teachers, families, students, and other stakeholders in education.
Krista Kaput holds the position of research director at EdAllies.