Buying education data

It seems Australia isn’t the only jurisdiction where the federal government is offering education money to states that is conditional on school-level reporting. According to a new report, US Education Secretary (and former Australian basketballer) Arne Duncan is doing the same:

In a “Dear Governor” letter to the 50 states, Mr. Duncan said $44 billion in stimulus money was being made available to states immediately. To qualify for a second phase of financing later this year, however, governors will need to provide reams of detailed educational information.

The data is likely to reveal that in many states, tests have been dumbed down so that students score far higher than on tests administered by the federal Department of Education.

It will also probably show that many local teacher-evaluation systems are so perfunctory that they rate 99 of every 100 teachers as excellent and that diplomas often mean so little that millions of high school graduates each year must enroll in remediation classes upon entering college.

Such information, Mr. Duncan’s letter said, “will reveal both strengths and underlying challenges.”

A PDF of Duncan’s letter to the governors is on his website. One section that caught my eye was the requirement for states to report:

progress towards implementing a statewide data system which includes each of the 12 elements described in the America COMPETES Act, to track progress of individual students, from preschool through postsecondary education, and match students to individual teachers; and

whether all teachers in mathematics and ELA in tested grades receive timely data on the performance of their students and estimates of individual teacher impact on student achievement, in a manner that informs instruction and includes appropriate benchmarks.