More than a month after an auditor’s report revealed gaps in the District’s collection of education data, questions remain among some education officials, including members of the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE), about how best to rectify this issue.

Though SBOE recently met with D.C. Auditor Kathleen Patterson and intends to schedule a public hearing, Ward 8 SBOE Representative Dr. Carlene Reid said she wants Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and other concerned parties to use the data to develop a long-term education plan.

“We can collect the best data around, but if it’s not used to target resources or inform how schools are functioning then that data can just become null and void,” Reid told The Informer. “A policy recommendation would be to figure out what data is meaningful, getting on a common page about outcomes, and creating a plan around that. [Right now], we don’t have a comprehensive plan around education.”

The Report Heard Around the District

On March 10, officials with the Office of the D.C. Auditor (ODCA) contended that the District hasn’t created the means to determine what each student learns each year, nor do they have any idea about student-teacher linkages. Without such data, OSSE would be unable to predict which students are the most likely to repeat a grade in high school.

According to officials, the lack of data has also left them in the dark about the progress of each public and public charter school graduate in postsecondary studies and workforce development.

Three years ago, D.C. Councilmembers Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Robert White (D-At large) led efforts for the data collection revamp with the introduction of legislation that led to the study. In March, during the release of the auditor’s report, they expressed how the revamping of data collection would help students who academically struggled during the pandemic.

Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn later released a statement explaining that the District collects more than 100 million public education data points annually, and has access to longitudinal, student-level data from students’ birth to adulthood. Kihn also noted that ODCA failed to mention that his office and OSSE worked with ODCA over the last two years to rectify discrepancies.

In response to an inquiry about the possibility of a comprehensive education plan, OSSE directed The Informer to the aforementioned comments.

Parents Say There’s More to Do

Southeast parent Yolanda Powers recounted what she described as the consistent data collection of schools her children attended.

She told The Informer that officials at Rocketship Rise Academy Public Charter School and Friendship Chamberlain Public Charter School often maintained contact with her, gathered information about family needs and kept detailed records of her children’s academic progress.

However, Powers did have some suggestions about how the D.C. government could take data collection to the next level.

“I would love to see academic records online. D.C. could start keeping up [all of] the records electronically so that parents don’t have to collect all that paperwork for registration,” Powers told The Informer. “It’s kind of hard because we have to go to different places so my children can get re-enrolled. All of that can be sent from the doctor or dentist’s office to give parents some type of relief.”

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Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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