This post was written in partnership with Cali Stringer.

Data governance is the decision-making glue that connects data technicians, data analysts, data users, and education leaders together. And during a time of rapid changes caused by emergencies such as the COVID-19, quick decision making around your education organization’s data practices will be essential. We’ve compiled a list below of data management issues that may arise or be exacerbated by Coronavirus to support your data governance priorities and planning in the upcoming months.

Student Online Learning Platforms:

This is a big and obvious issue as districts race to support their students’ learning while they are homebound. Your data governance committee can help establish a process to approve online learning applications, grant application access and ownership, and set privacy guidelines for your teachers and administrators. In addition, your data governance committee can update or develop policies/processes to authorize and maintain applications that are collecting student data, ensure those policies require vendors to provide access to the backend data and ownership of those data, maintain an inventory of data sources used, and assign owners to monitor and maintain those data. Furthermore, your committee may want to consider setting standards for interoperability across applications, such as rostering standards and primary sources of truth. The National Center for Education Statistics released this 2016 Forum Guide to Elementary/Secondary Virtual Education Data which outlines many data questions to address as your organization expands online learning.

Data Collection and Reporting:

Your SEA or LEA will surely have missing or incomplete data sets this year, chief among them the state assessment scores. Knowing your data stewards for each major data set and accessing their expertise is key to making decisions around how you will reflect missing data in your systems and reporting. This work will include updating your data definitions, such as the timing of the state assessment or requirements definitions of time required in “class” of students and teachers.

Furthermore, the virus presents an opportunity to create alternative measures you may wish to use to describe progress and outcomes for this school year. For example, you may have to cut off your average daily attendance metric to the day you closed schools, but you may wish to measure usage rates of certain online education applications (particularly if you can track usage by time spent in the tool by user, as well as mastery or completion of tasks), number of devices and hotspots distributed to families without internet access, and similar metrics to show progress and continue to target support during this time. If possible, you may also wish to look at application usage by school/geography to understand where more targeted supports (devices, technical assistance) need to be provided to increase equitable access to education content. Also there are tools in the market that monitor what applications an organization uses (teachers, students, administrators, etc.). For districts with many applications, the committee could monitor which ones are used and to what extent, and phase out applications that are not in use to repurpose funding.

Individual Education Plans:

Students with IEPs must be granted access to services as long as general education students are receiving instruction. The data governance committee may need to weigh in on how data regarding IEP supports and services are received and at what frequency during the period of school closure. Given barriers to providing some IEP services and depending on how data systems are designed, education agencies may need to start collecting data on missed services in new ways, necessitating new data definitions and policies, as well as system enhancements. 

Travel and Illness Checking:

Education agencies may be required to check student and family travel and illness history. This will require rapid data decisions as your agency builds its data collection processes, data definitions and policies, data storage procedures, and privacy policies. Your data governance committee can help with these new data but also with the necessary collaboration that may be required with outside organizations like health departments. 

These examples represent the tip of the iceberg for the important work that lies ahead for data governance committees in both the short and long term. Now more than ever clear data practices governed by a diverse body of data decision makers can provide exponential benefit to education agencies working quickly to address the varied and substantial issues that arise from Coronavirus, school closures, and student online learning. If you want to learn more about establishing your data governance practice in your own organization, check out these earlier blog posts on data governance tools and data governance to support interoperability. You can also take a self-assessment on your data governance readiness here

Thank you to our colleagues Elizabeth Brunet, Kay Jones, Zach Trout, and Ana Quintana who provided ideas for this post.