2022 Statewide Data Update: Too Many States Falling Short on Full Data Transparency

Accountability

November 29, 2022

Reporting:

Data on key student outcomes such as performance on state assessments, chronic absenteeism, and high school graduation are crucial to identifying areas of concern, informing interventions, and channeling resources to where they are most needed – but only if they are reported and rendered intelligible to a wide variety of audiences. Our analyses indicate a big gap between states that merely make data available in some form and those that compile it in an accessible and interpretable format as required under the Every Student Succeeds Act. These analyses are available in the following interactive maps, which summarize which states have publicly reported data on assessments, chronic absenteeism, and graduation rates – and whether they have done so in an accessible and ESSA-compliant manner. 

As of November 29, 45 states (including DC) reported their 2022 assessment results in the form of a table or spreadsheet. These raw spreadsheets contain massive amounts of data that take up a great amount of computing capacity and are often poorly organized, making it difficult for parents and other stakeholders to make sense of.

In contrast, only 30 of these 45 states have updated their report cards with the new data – something states are required to do under federal law. These report cards serve as a critical component of data transparency and accessibility, as they typically highlight key statistics and have usability features to sort relevant data. 

For example, Delaware presents all of its disaggregated assessment data from the past seven years in a single excel sheet with 989,179 rows and over 10 million data entries. A standard laptop doesn’t even have the capability to work with such a large data set without freezing or crashing at every press of a button. Unlike streamlined report cards, massive data dumps like these are  difficult and time-consuming even for a statistician to work with, let alone a parent or other stakeholder. Delaware’s report card, on the other hand, highlights and contextualizes key statistics and allows viewers to easily search for schools and districts. With this in mind, timely and transparent updates of state report card websites are just as important as releasing the data itself. 

Even slower than the updating of report cards has been the rollout of new chronic absenteeism and graduation rate data. Only 21 states have reported 2022 chronic absenteeism data, and only 13 have reported updated graduation rates. As many administrators call for a more holistic understanding of academic success beyond test scores, they concurrently fail to provide such data in a timely manner – making this holistic review impossible.

ESSA Compliance:

Not only is it important that states report assessment data, but they must do so in such a way that is ESSA-compliant. The Every Student Succeeds Act requires that data “can be cross-tabulated by, at a minimum, each major racial and ethnic group, gender, English proficiency status, and children with or without disabilities.” Iowa, Kansas, Georgia, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania have all failed to disaggregate their data by gender, as required by law. Some states have disaggregated their data by additional relevant student demographics as well. For example, 31 states have disaggregated their data by migrant status. 

ESSA also requires that this data is provided to the public “in an easily accessible and user-friendly manner.” Arguably, the 15 states that have not yet updated their report cards have not adhered to this requirement, despite technically releasing their data files. 

More specifically, some states had the following issues with their data reporting:

  • Alabama, Arizona, Kentucky, Maine, and New Mexico significantly changed their tests between 2019 and 2022, making it difficult to analyze year-to-year trends and understand learning loss over the course of the pandemic. 
  • Alaska, Colorado, Michigan, Oregon, and Pennsylvania all have assessment participation rates below 90%, calling into question the validity of their results.
  • Alaska’s website does not have a clear way to compare schools and districts or download their data into a spreadsheet, making it difficult to analyze performance across the state. 
  • Alabama reported race and ethnicity separately, complicating analyses involving Latino students. 
  • Arizona only disaggregated their state-level assessment data, so it is impossible to analyze achievement gaps within specific districts and schools. 
  • Colorado did not disaggregate proficiency rates on its report card website. Colorado instead disaggregated mean scores, which can be easily skewed. 
  • Delaware did not provide disaggregated data on their report card websites, making it difficult for parents and other stakeholders to stay informed on achievement gaps. Delaware also lumps all of their disaggregated state, district, and school-level data from the past seven years into a single table with nearly one million rows, making it very difficult to navigate and analyze. 
  • Georgia reported their disaggregated data in a separate place from their designated 2022 Assessment Results page, making it exceptionally difficult to locate. 
  • Hawaii disaggregated their data in an unpolished master data file, but they did not disaggregate on the main data sheet that includes state- and district-level data. 
  • Iowa disaggregated their data by school and student demographic on their report card, but they did not do so in their data center, making it difficult to compare/analyze across schools and districts. 
  • Massachusetts‘s statewide data reports do not allow viewers to include multiple student groups on one table. While disaggregated data is available in the report cards and profiles of individual schools and districts, it is not available in a singular table or spreadsheet, making it difficult for analysts to compare achievement gaps. 
  • New York has technically published its data, but the data file produces  an error on most computers, making it impossible to actually open. Despite clearly having the data ready for release, New York has completely failed to publish and discuss their data in an accessible, transparent manner. 
  • North Dakota’s website is exceptionally difficult to navigate; it’s impossible to download a data file or easily compare districts, schools, or student groups.
  • Pennsylvania’s report card center allows viewers to disaggregate data by student demographic on a school-by-school basis; however, its data center instead has a supergroup of “historically underperforming” students. This makes it impossible to look at statewide achievement gaps for specific subgroups or to easily compare achievement gaps across schools and districts. 
  • Utah’s website does not have a clear way to download all district and school level data into a spreadsheet, making it difficult to analyze performance across the state. 
  • Wisconsin lumps all of its disaggregated state, district, and school level data into a single spreadsheet with nearly one million rows, making it very difficult to manage, navigate, and analyze. 

The public and accessible reporting of school data is a tenet not only of federal law but also of basic government transparency. By April, parents in many states choose what schools their children will attend. In November, we choose who will represent us in all levels of government – from school board members to state legislators to federal congressmen. How can families make these decisions without information on the true state of their schools? 

Moreover, while legislators and bureaucrats theoretically use this data to improve schools, advocates also need access to this data – both to support improvement efforts and to flag when they are ineffective. In short, publicly reporting data in a timely and accessible manner is critical to the legitimacy and transparency of the American education system; missing data in mid-November – during an election year, no less – is simply unacceptable. 

The data in these maps will be updated periodically. Check back for new information!

Assessment Reporting by State:

Chronic Absenteeism by State:

Graduation Rates by State: