UPD is pleased to announce that Ana Quintana, Account Executive and seven-year veteran with the firm, has recently become a shareholder in the company. She leads UPD’s Ed-Fi and data system implementation practice which she was integral in building. Ana is a world-shaking leader who has accomplished great outcomes for UPD and our clients. The following blog highlights her thoughts on data and education policy in the US.

Data and Policies in Education

A country is as rich and successful as its people. Education policy and investment are critical components of government’s agenda; paying attention to these increases national prosperity.

The US has been a pioneer in collecting massive amounts of data and using it to improve business processes and customer service. America made a conscious decision to collect and use data to radically change the performance and modus operandi of entire sectors, some of the most successful examples being in the retail, finance and logistics sectors.

I was born and raised in Mexico and moved to the US to study for my master’s degree and after graduation I started working for UPD Consulting. My first project was with the office of special education in a large urban school district. Two things surprised me:

  1. How far behind the K-12 education sector was in terms of data, from collection to interoperability in their data systems to the narrow use of data for compliance instead of performance and ultimately student outcomes; and
  2. The impressive and robust policies and services for special education students.

What most caught my attention was the many negative perceptions people held towards special education policies and delivery of services. Yet I thought they were amazing: laws were in place to guarantee equal access to education, facilities and services for children with disabilities. Similar guarantees only started in Mexico in 2011 where access remains highly inequitable, and they do not exist in many other countries. Citizens and residents of the US should be very proud of the civil rights that are written into law to protect all people. I am proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the many people who are committed to making those ideals a reality.

In contrast to the complaints aimed at special education (and again, to my surprise), many people had a positive opinion about the amount of data that was available to help inform decision making and instruction in the district. But over much of the last decade it has become apparent that education data is far less useful than it could be, and until fairly recently it has been prohibitively expensive to maximize the utility of the data. Data was dispersed between multiple systems, unique identifiers were in short supply, there were no data standards to be applied across the board, joining data and reporting in formats that were actionable to teachers and administrators was very time consuming and competed with instructional time.

Eight years into working with data and data systems I can attest that we have come a long way and I see good traction in this field. Many parties have come together with the vision of making the education sector world class in terms of technology and data use. Many changes are happening within school districts and state education agencies to standardize their data and the use of it. The movement is creating a lot of excitement right now and I am confident that we will continue to see noticeable impact on student outcomes.