- A disproportionate share of high-quality research about education produced over the past 20 years comes from North Carolina, due to the state tracking data, such as school accountability and teacher demographics, since the 1990s and making that information more easily accessible to researchers, Chalkbeat reports.
- Researchers and educators, however, need information on students and teachers from more areas of the country. Other states don't share their data as much, either because it is not collected or for ideological or political reasons. In N.C., student data can be obtained through a third-party research center which helps separate the data from politics.
- California, the largest state in the country, is one of the hardest to collect data from and has weakened, or failed to improve its data operations since 2010, though some advocates are pushing for improvement, according to the article.
Education today is largely “data-driven.” Students are subjected to tests, and increasingly surveys, on a continual basis so that teachers and school leaders can use that data to make informed decisions about methods, policies, and individual student needs. While the increase in testing frequency is of debatable value in terms of student experience of education, the one advantage it offers is the collection of usable data.
If only a limited number of educators and researchers have access to the big data warehouses in a state, however, the value of testing is diminished. For education research to be truly effective, researchers need to be able to access data in all states across the nation so that they can compare methods, policies and funding with student results in a variety of settings and demographic situations. Even so, there is still the need to protect personal data and to make sure it is not analyzed in a way that is discriminatory.
A lack of access to data also implies a lack of transparency. The whole purpose of school accountability data is to inform educational and government institutions about the effectiveness of policies and methods and to identify areas of need. In an era of school choice, parents need access to accountability data as well. Some states, like North Carolina, are working to make that data as available and accessible as possible.