Although Oklahoma received low marks in a recent survey, a national education advocacy group says the state is poised to make progress in how it tracks its students' progress.
The Data Quality Campaign, a nonprofit group that advocates for the effective use of data in education policy, last week released its annual breakdown of how each state tracks public school students. Oklahoma scored poorly in the report, although it did make progress over last year's performance.
The report focuses specifically on the use of longitudinal data — a type of data that tracks how students perform throughout their years in school, rather than looking only at a single semester or academic year.
The group lays out 10 criteria it hopes to see states meet, including creating systems that allow teachers and parents quick access to information and creating progress reports using individual student data.
In the 2012 report, Oklahoma meets only one of the established criteria — creating a governance structure that guides the collection and use of education data.
In the previous report, the state met none of the established criteria.
Although those results may be discouraging, Oklahoma is poised to make greater progress in the next few years, said Aimee Guidera, the campaign's executive director.
During a conference call with national media, Guidera singled Oklahoma out as a state that had begun a conversation about making effective use of data.
Oklahoma education leaders are reassessing the way the state collects and uses information on its students, she said.
That conversation is a sign that Oklahoma is taking steps toward improvement, even if, on paper, it may appear to have stalled, she said.
As states begin to look with greater scrutiny about the student data they collect, Guidera said, it is important that the states also consider how best to make use of that information.
Any data the states collect needs to be available to allow parents and teachers to see how their students are progressing over time.
“Data does not exist for data's sake,” she said. “Data has got to exist to inform policy and practice.”
John Kraman, executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Education's student data and information system, said the department is moving aggressively to improve how the state handles student performance data.
The department has been working closely with Oklahoma Chief Information Officer Alex Pettit and speaking with school administrators, parents and others to develop a plan to improve the state's educational data, Kraman said.
By the time next year's report is released, he said, he expects to have made a great deal of progress.
“There's a lot on our plate,” he said. “It's really an exciting time.”