Building a Data-Driven Education System in the United States

Joshua New November 15, 2016
November 15, 2016
While most Americans are empowered by data and technology in many aspects of their lives, U.S. schools are largely failing to use data to transform and improve education.

Schools today are not very different from 50 years ago. Instructors still teach to the average, rather than provide students personalized instruction, because it is expedient, not because it is effective. Most educators still rely on tradition and rules of thumb, rather than use evidenced-based tools and methods to advance student achievement. And most administrators still make decisions, often inaccurately, based on assumptions and intuition, rather than use detailed metrics and analytics to manage schools efficiently and fairly. In short, while most Americans are empowered by data and technology in many aspects of their lives, U.S. schools are largely failing to use data to transform and improve education, even though better use of data has the potential to significantly improve how educators teach children and how administrators manage schools.

Though some industries have completely restructured their operations around the new opportunities afforded by data-driven technologies, education has yet to undergo such a transformation to capitalize on the potential of data. Although information technology (IT) has entered most U.S. classrooms, with 93 percent of teachers regularly using digital tools to assist classroom instruction in some capacity, schools still focus on using IT to support operations, rather than leverage data to transform and improve these operations. The reasons for this range from inadequate teacher training to systemic limitations in how states manage their education technology infrastructure. In addition, misinformed and ill-conceived opposition to improving how the education system uses data routinely limits policymakers and educators from making meaningful progress. For example, a common misperception is that increasing the collection and use of data in the classroom would increase the much-loathed annual standardized testing, when in reality, data-driven education would reduce reliance on such ineffective methods of student and teacher assessment.  

If the education system’s sluggish recognition of the potential of data has a silver lining, it is this: The United States now has an opportunity to rebuild its education system to support data-driven education by taking advantage of technologies and best practices already established in other sectors. To do this, the U.S. education system, from local school districts to the federal government, should systematically implement the policies, practices, and technologies that enable data-driven education.

 

Building a Data-Driven Education System in the United States