Education Decision-makers Need More Timely, Actionable Data

December 13, 2016

Executive Director Jon Fullerton and Proving Ground Director Bi Vuong discuss the need for shorter-term, intermediate meaures of success in order to secure long-term life outcomes for students in the Stanford Social Innovcation Review.

    By Jon Fullerton & Bi Vuong 

    Improving US education requires a deliberate managerial focus on short-term outcomes for students. Unfortunately, many outcomes that accountability systems currently measure are based on data collected too infrequently and on too broad a level to be of much use in helping managers and system leaders make practical decisions. We suggest the sector refocus on actionable near-term results that facilitate more efficient and effective management of interventions, and of the system as a whole.Improving US education requires a deliberate managerial focus on short-term outcomes for students. Unfortunately, many outcomes that accountability systems currently measure are based on data collected too infrequently and on too broad a level to be of much use in helping managers and system leaders make practical decisions. We suggest the sector refocus on actionable near-term results that facilitate more efficient and effective management of interventions, and of the system as a whole.

    The goals for primary and secondary education in the United States have been articulated in myriad ways. Departments of education tend to talk in terms of providing students with the knowledge and skills to be productive, global citizens. Economists tend to focus on individual earnings, college matriculation and graduation, or employment. These are valuable long-term goals, but are too vague (knowledge and skills) or too distant (earnings and college matriculation) to allow for meaningful decision-making.

    As a result, many education leaders and managers focus on somewhat more proximal achievement and attainment measures, such as student performance on state assessments and high school graduation rates. While these measures are correlated with the ultimate outcomes we care about, are cheap and easy to measure, and are directly related to schools and educational interventions, they have significant limitations.

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