Every day states, districts and individual schools make policy decisions affecting instruction, school administration, and operations. Often their decisions must be based on anecdotal and incomplete information because that is all that decision-makers can access at the time. In spite of the fact that we are awash in useful digital learning applications and potentially valuable data, the systems we use to collect, manage, analyze, and report on that data are often disconnected and don’t work well together. Meanwhile, in other aspects of life beyond schools, such as shopping, healthcare, law enforcement, sports, entertainment and transportation, “smart” systems use data in extraordinarily sophisticated ways.
The goals for intelligent use of data in the education ecosystem are worthwhile. Aggregate data accumulated over years and from multiple sources can divulge trends and point the way to success for particular groups of students and/or for program evaluation. Likewise, information generated through digital learning and various applications can track a specific student’s progress over time and information can be made accessible to teachers and parents through real-time reporting tools.