SEATTLE -- Washington state is doing a good job collecting information about students and how they are doing in school, but officials need to do better in using the data to improve learning, according to a report released Thursday.
In their annual assessment of how states are doing at collecting, analyzing and distributing student data, the national Data Quality Campaign rated Washington near the middle of the pack.
The Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan advocacy organization noted that Washington was one of only a few states that connected teacher effectiveness with the colleges where they were trained, and that it may be the only state that sends that information to colleges in other states when teachers get their degrees elsewhere.
But it said it wants to see the systems for student data improved in Washington and in many other states.
The state is looking into ways to make the data more accessible, said Nathan Olson, spokesman for the state Office of the Superintendent of Public instruction. He noted that Washington's goal was similar to the Data Quality Campaign's: "To have an effective data system that can be a tool in helping all students achieve."
"The most recent analysis of the Data Quality Campaign shows that while we have made progress on effective data use, we have more work to do," Olson said. "We are doing much of that work."
That work will include Washington's goal to expand its system from preschool and into college, he said.
The data report on Washington was based on information provided by Gov. Chris Gregoire's office, through the Office of Financial Management. State officials consider it a fair assessment.
During a news conference, Aimee Rogstad Guidera, executive director of the Data Quality Campaign, shared her vision of teachers opening up their laptop computers at the beginning of the school year to look at detailed information about each incoming student. She said she wanted to know why student information is not as easily accessible as information for restaurants.
In only a handful of states, teachers can learn whether a particular student struggled with reading last year or had a habit of being tardy to school and start out the year with a plan for addressing those concerns, she said.
Guidera said that kind of information is available in most states, but few places get it or get help to understand how to use it in the classroom.
"State policymakers must actively support a culture in which all education stakeholders are actually using and learning from this crucial information to improve student achievement -- not just using data for shame and blame," she said.
According to the information sent to the group from state governors and education departments, only six states -- Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee -- make sure educators can access and use data in ways similar to her example.
The group found that only eight states, plus the District of Columbia, can ensure parents have access to key information about their children -- Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Texas, Utah and the District of Columbia.
Data Quality Campaign works with a broad coalition of government organizations and nonprofits and advocates for good data to replace anecdotal evidence concerning public schools. Groups like the National Governors Association, the American Federation of Teachers and many other national education groups support the list of 10 data goals on which the Data Quality Campaign rates the states.
Those goals include setting up an "early warning system" so parents and students know if they are in danger of not graduating from high school. Another is to improve the ability of teachers, parents and others to use the data the state is collecting.
Online: Data Quality Campaign report