Right now, sports fans are missing the live and televised events that amp up our culture each spring. There are only so many sports reruns you can watch – and it isn’t quite the same as experiencing the thrill of the game in the moment. But, while we may be missing the sports that keep us entertained, there is a much larger competition going on that should be capturing more attention: international education achievement.
So, what does the leaderboard look like? According to the National Center on Education and the Economy, the results for the U.S. do not look promising in the areas of reading, mathematics or science. Even though the U.S. outspent all other countries in the world on a per-student basis ($12,201 prekindergarten through 12th grade during the 2017 fiscal year – the most recent data), we scored outside of the top 10 nations in all three subjects. For all the sports fans: this is the equivalent of a professional sports team finishing in last place despite having the highest payroll.
What’s going on here? In our view, this is – in part – a data utilization issue. Think of it this way: decision-makers in baseball used to rely on their intuition and the same set of statistics for well over 100 years to “know” what to do. But, since the 1980s, the trend has increasingly moved to the use of advanced statistical analyses to determine the best use of resources and the most efficient way to achieve the goal of the game – winning. When we flip this to the social sector, it’s clear that it is time to move beyond intuition and find better, more data-driven ways to determine effectiveness, especially when the goal is a child’s success in life.
From Gut Instinct to Goal Impact
The current set of education achievement data that is available on a routine, automated basis reports on the traditional indicators used to determine effectiveness: achievement, attendance, and discipline. Achievement remains the ultimate goal, but with all the money that’s being spent on education in America, how do the various individual programs and interventions contribute to the expected outcome?
Data from vendors, partners and other public agencies can provide a more holistic view of the student and the associated outcomes. The game plan for better student outcomes in the U.S. must include an integrated approach to data from across the systems and services that touch a student’s life.
The first step in creating the path to better student outcomes is creating an inventory of the data that can inform your process, outcomes, or progress toward your goals.
Depending on your intended outcomes, the data you should look to incorporate could range from immunization data (health department), social/emotional intervention data, or state-level workforce data. An integrated view of a truly comprehensive set of data is the connective tissue that can inform across disciplines and industries, systematizing data to allow for aligned, detailed accountability and real-time decision-making.
Integrated Data in Action
Integrated data systems may sound challenging to create, but because of the value they can offer, integrated data initiatives are on the rise. An example in use right now is Cal-PASS Plus, a data cooperative designed to provide longitudinal student data, with a mission to provide actionable data to help improve student success along the education-to-workforce pipeline. By integrating K-12, college/university and workforce data, leaders can pinpoint outcomes and make real-time decisions that support the goal.
This chart is a great example of actionable data created from different sources, showing the annual earning of students enrolled in a particular program who did not transfer to any postsecondary institution. With insights based on integrated data, for example, a college counselor may be able to offer sounder or more confident guidance on the alignment of vocational earning potential with a student’s ability to repay student loans. And this could make a world of difference in that student’s adult life.
For Cal-PASS Plus and other organizations focused on integrating a variety of data sets into a single system, the power of aligned educational and workforce data can provide a level of depth to leaders and practitioners, whether they are statewide planners, college/university chancellors or high school and community college counselors. With an integrated approach to data and outcomes tracking, decision-makers in young people’s lives can be empowered to better guide and support them as they grow.
The Winning Play
In sports, the end score of the game is important, but so are all the little things that happen along the way – these are the plays and actions that culminate in the score, or outcome. Public education needs to move beyond summative achievement scores, which can be referred to in the education industry as a “postmortem” autopsy of teaching and learning and must become more agile and driven by integrated data to drive better outcomes.
Does your student outcomes game plan include a holistic view of each student, from grades and attendance, to before and after-school care, to mentoring and more?
Learn how Apricot 360 is helping organizations like yours to create integrated views of data that inform decision-making and improve student outcomes.