A tour of schools data around the country – Baltimore, DC, and Chicago

First stop, BaltimoreMaryland School Assessment test results – proficiency levels only – are available in a giant PDF report. But the state DOE saves the day with a data navigator that lets you check off groups you’re interested in and view graphs of proficiency data based on your choices. Two screenshots should give you a sense of the range of data available here.

With a short hop to Washington, DC, I found lots of background information on the tests from the Office of Data & Accountability, but little information about how students did outside of a press release from Chancellor Rhee. If more detailed data is available, it’s hard to find.

Our last stop, Chicago has an extensive and easy-to-navigate Office of Research, Evaluation, and Accountability. Data is available going back to 2000 or earlier, query tools allow at least some types of comparison reports, an extensive list of program evaluation reports is posted, and one section even clearly explains how to request data or apply to conduct original research within the schools.

Home again in New York with notes from the journey: our city is not alone in sharing most data as pre-packaged PDF files, and posting only proficiency level data is common, so although it took some doing, we’re lucky to have those scale scores to analyze. Will readers in other cities begin to push for the same? There’s more than one way to look at assessment data and everyone deserves the clearest picture possible.

A few places are experimenting with tools to help the public explore data, but most limit the types of comparisons you can make. Maryland and Chicago lead the pack (at least of the school systems compared here), providing innovative tools that foster a sense of openness and let users get at important questions.

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