Where The Data Aren’t (And Are!)

While critiquing a cage-match point that my colleague Kevin Carey made Sherman Dorn raises an important and overlooked issue. When it comes to data in education there are really two problems. The first, pretty well known, is that there is a real lack of data to answer a bunch of important questions in a serious empirical way. Two great examples, the back and forth on charter schools and the fact that we have to debate roughly how many students graduate from American public schools and use estimates to figure it out. What other $450 billion dollar industry can’t give you a decent denominator on productivity?

But the second, which Sherman gets at, is that in some cases there is good data but no one is using it to ask and answer interesting and important questions…That’s a more overlooked and subtle problem of incentives and politics but it’s an enormous missed opportunity. What’s the point of putting these powerful state data tracking systems in if no one is going to use them to ask and try to answer, best we can, some tough questions…

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