Using Data in Education

Last week, the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) released Data for Action 2010, an annual nationwide analysis of states’ ability to collect and use data to improve student achievement. For the 5th year in a row, Florida achieved a perfect score for having the right data policies in place around student and teacher-related data collection and management. The report also noted that we improved our score in how we use the data to increase student achievement, making us one of only six states to be ranked this high. At this point you are probably asking yourself why I happen to be so excited about something like this. For me, the reason is quite simple. By using data, we can better formulate education policies, assist struggling schools, and most importantly, provide educators and administrators with information that can be used to help their students succeed. We’ve spent a long time as a state building up our data systems and working to get as much information as we can out to the public, and I think the impacts of those efforts have really begun to shine lately. In fact, I often hear complaints that maybe we have TOO much data out on the web, inundating people with more than they can handle.

But for me, you can never have too much data as long as you manage and deliver it in streamlined, user-friendly ways. And that’s a big part of what we are going to be doing through Florida’s federal Race to the Top grant and Data Systems grants – taking everything we do now and making it so user-focused and public-friendly that folks will be able to delve right in and become informed about their schools like never before. From this effort I envision a new crop of education advocates, armed with reams of data, all working collectively to make our education system one of the best in the nation and the world.

Now that’s something to get excited about!

Getting Involved in Education

Today, Florida’s State Board of Education met to discuss a number of important education policies and issues. Their discussions centered on things such as integrating more digital content into our classrooms and turning around our lowest performing schools. (The complete agenda can be found at http://www.fldoe.org/board/meetings/2011_02_15/agenda.asp). As the governing body and the voice of our education system, our State Board members are tasked with asking difficult questions and making decisions that are solely focused on student success. The involvement of our Board members in the educational process is critical, as is the participation of so many of you. Getting involved and staying involved are just two ways you can make a positive impact on our students. If you are not already engaged in education in your local area, I ask that you make a commitment to do so today. Florida’s education system depends on each and every one of us to make that difference.

Reading and literacy

In January, the Department celebrated the importance of reading and literacy with Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida! We had more than 15 million minutes captured statewide during the Million Minute Marathon – and countless other literacy activities in communities and districts. This coming weekend, I have the opportunity to further stress the importance of reading through the Volunteer USA Foundation’s Celebration of Reading event. All around us, we have opportunities to infuse reading and literacy in our every day lives. Reading is a core component in education, and I hope you continue to find ways to make reading fun and exciting for your children.