Track or educate?
Sent to the Topeka Capital-Journal, May 24
There is rejoicing in Kansas because the state has received a grant to help track progress of individual students on standardized tests "from birth to college" ("Ks. Receives ed data grant," May 22). I think this is a tragic waste of money.
We already know which students and schools are doing well and which are not, and we know why: Research tells us that students from high-income families who attend well funded schools score as high any students in the world on international tests. Children of poverty in poorly funded schools score below international norms.
At a time when schools are badly under-funded and when money is tight, we are, apparently, eager to spend millions tracking and testing students when we should be spending money on educating them.
Ks. receives ed data grant
The Topeka Capital-Journal, May 22 Cjonline.com
Kansas will receive $9.1 million to help fund a statewide data system that will better measure the progress of students.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that Kansas is one of 20 states receiving a piece of $250 million in grants to develop a longitudinal data system funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"Data gives us a road map," Duncan said. "It tells us where we are, where we need to go and who is at risk. Data helps expose the good, the bad and the ugly about our current state of education."
A longitudinal data system has long been a priority in Kansas. One of the concerns about data reported through the federal No Child Left Behind Act has been that it focuses on groups of students that change from year to year.
State officials have talked about preferring a system that would allow them to track the growth of individuals as they move through the system, and improved data collection would be an essential component of that. The state made steps toward a comprehensive statewide data system with the implementation of the Kansas Individual Data System (KIDS) in the fall of 2005.
Duncan said the idea is to create and implement systems that will allow states to follow student progress from early childhood to career, including matching teachers to students. At the same time, student privacy and confidentiality are to be protected.
Improving the quality of data, he said, is essential to judging improvement efforts, identifying the best teachers, helping teachers spot students falling behind, aiding principals in evaluating curriculum and turning around low-performing schools.
"Tracking student progress from birth through college helps teachers in the classroom, helps principals manage and improve their schools, and helps parents better understand the unique educational needs of their child," said Duncan. "It's one of the core reforms at the heart of our agenda, and we are eager to work with states to put these systems in place."
The first State Longitudinal Data Systems grants were awarded in 2005, and they are independent of the Race to the Top grants that the Kansas State Board of Education has decided to stop pursuing after being denied in the first round.