Data can be a powerful tool for driving educational equity. Whether used by a classroom teacher to improve instruction, by school administrators to identify students at risk for dropping out, or by district, administrators to identify students with the potential to succeed in advanced classes, data can be leveraged to support students in many different ways. A 2022 survey by AASA and the Data Quality Campaign found that 98% of superintendents feel that if they had better access to information, they would be more confident in their abilities to make decisions for their district. However, the 2022 Project Unicorn State of the Sector Report (SOTS) finds that although districts are swimming in valuable data, they are often unable to make use of it.

The Project Unicorn State of the Sector Report (SOTS), informed by the results of the annual School System Data Survey (SSDS), is the first of its kind analysis of K12 school system capabilities and infrastructure for leveraging education data. This includes school system readiness to implement data interoperability, defined as the seamless, secure and controlled exchange of data between applications. The 2022 report, which analyzed the responses of 187 Local Education Agencies (LEAs) from the spring of 2022, evaluates school system capabilities in 6 domains: Leadership and Vision, Governance, Technology and Infrastructure Landscape, Procurement, Implementation Fidelity, and Impact on Educational Environment.

The report finds that while school systems desire to engage in data-driven decision-making, they lack the capacity for robust implementation. The foundational capacities needed to support quality data-driven decision-making fall into multiple categories:

  • Leadership capacity
  • Data engineering capacity
  • Data analytics capacity
  • Financial capacity
  • Planning and project management capacity
  • Data-informed pedagogical capacity

While there is much work to be done to help school systems make the most of their data,  Project Unicorn is working to make this a reality. The 18 organizations which make up the Project Unicorn coalition collaborate to provide free support and resources for school systems and vendors looking to modernize their data infrastructure and implement data interoperability.

Read the full article about data-driven decision making in schools by Susan M. Bearden at Getting Smart.