A step in the right (data) direction

Texas recently announced it would make educator data available to the public in order to meet the requirements of a bill passed during the 85th Regular Session, which concluded on May 29, 2017. The bill – SB 1839 – requires the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to provide educator-preparation programs with data that’s currently reported through the state’s data system. (No data that the state is not already collecting will be collected through this new dashboard.) The goal is to help educator-preparation programs assess and revise their programs as needed to improve their design and effectiveness, and to identify strengths and weaknesses of the teaching profession.

To meet the requirements set forth in the legislation, TEA has elected to create an “educator data dashboard.” Over the last several months, TEA, in coordination with other state organizations and nonprofits —including Deans for Impact— convened several stakeholder groups across the state to solicit feedback on the data educator-preparation programs collect, submit, and analyze.

TEA and its partners reported and distributed the initial findings during the December 8th State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) meeting. This initial synthesis and report to SBEC identifies key themes surfaced across the various stakeholder groups. Moving forward, TEA—supported by the recently approved members of the Educator Preparation Data Workgroup—will continue to solicit input and recommendations regarding EPP data for program improvement.

The recent activity in Texas is aligned with recent efforts in other states to improve the field of educator preparation through better access to data. Most of these efforts have good intentions, but all too often, the resulting “educator data dashboards” do not actually provide data that educator-preparation programs find useful for driving programmatic changes. States considering implementing these types of dashboards should heed the advice of experts in the field – which is why we find it so encouraging that Texas policymakers have demonstrated a desire to collaborate with educator-preparation programs and other stakeholders to improve the preparation of the state’s teachers. The state’s commitment to involving an array of stakeholders seems to indicate an awareness of its own organizational capacity and the benefits of engaging those working in educator preparation.

At Deans for Impact, we have engaged with educator-preparation leaders nationwide on the types of data necessary for supporting improvement efforts, both within their programs and across the field more broadly. Through those conversations, a couple of common categories have emerged:

  • Teacher demographic and professional background data
  • District, school, and classroom placement data
  • Teacher performance and retention data tied to student outcomes data

Educator-preparation leaders want these data at both the individual and program level. In order to maintain teacher anonymity and confidentiality of the data being shared, the data should be shared using unique identifier codes that allow educator-preparation programs to link the data provided by the state with data collected while candidates were enrolled in the educator-preparation program. Ideally, these data, appropriately disaggregated, would be communicated back to educator-preparation programs in a timely manner so that programmatic change decisions can be made prior to the beginning of the next academic year.

Data can be a powerful lever for informing programmatic improvements. But truly making data a tool for improvement requires careful attention to which data is made available to leaders in the field. In Texas, the context seems ripe for positive and lasting change in how the state interacts and communicates with its educator-preparation programs. The state will soon face several instrumental decisions that will either support the focus on improvement for which educator-preparation programs and other stakeholders — including Deans for Impact — are advocating, or revert to a compliance-based approach.

We will continue to watch, and engage in, the conversations so that Texas produces an educator data dashboard that is effective for educator-preparation program use toward improvement efforts and informative for the public on the health of the teaching programs in the state.

Patrick Steck

Senior Director of Policy

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