Close on the heels of federal efforts to prod states to build and make use of new systems for collecting longitudinal data on students, the Spencer Foundation is rolling out an interesting new grant program that is designed to ask hard questions about what exactly educators are going to do with all the data they collect.
The Spencer Foundation states:
The Spencer Foundation is pleased to announce a new initiative on Data Use and Educational Improvement. This research program will support scholarship that examines the conditions, contexts, and underlying factors and processes that affect how educational organizations use data and information for improvement. There is great potential for data to support and even transform educational policy and practice in various settings. But for many educators the promise of improvement through the use of data is constrained and even thwarted by a wide array of factors. Too often, we are unaware of how these factors affect our ability to use data for improvement.
This initiative questions the assumption that the simple presence of data invariably leads to improved outcomes and performance, and that those who are presented information under data-driven improvement schemes will know how best to make sense of it and transform their practice. Our intent is to attend to the factors and underlying processes that can explain which data, in what contexts, and under what circumstances contribute to particular outcomes. We also focus on the capacities needed by school and district practitioners as well as college and university faculty and staff to translate, interpret, use, and evaluate the effectiveness of the particular data they use to drive improvement.
Information on the Spencer grant program is available here.