The cold weather has returned to many parts of the country, bringing back those dreaded winter layers: snow ice – snow – sleet – ice. Districts and schools often feel a similar sense of dread when the state comes a-knockin’ with new reforms, perceived as another layer of bureaucracy through which to slog.

This reaction is particularly vehement with data systems – in our work on behalf of states, UPD has heard district concerns loud and clear. Data collection is tedious and time-consuming. When the result is something you can’t use or data systems that don’t talk to each other, the opportunity costs are huge.

Last week, the Data Quality Campaign released the annual scorecard and analysis of states’ ability to collect and use data to improve student success. At the event, U.S. chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra suggested that rather than see data systems as a layering phenomenon, data can be used to paint a picture:

“How do we think about the downstream opportunities? The notion that if I have information that I didn’t have before – adding that in a mosaic-like fashion to the other information that we have – that we could unleash value that we hadn’t seen before.”

Chopra goes on to compare this to the energy grid, noting that when utility companies developed energy smart grids they didn’t think about other potential uses – or users – of the product. Now they’re facing huge costs overhauling the system.

The full report is well-worth a read. However, despite Chopra’s urging to make data systems more like a mosaic, rather bulky layers, the Data Quality Campaign’s 10 State Actions do not include measures that promote any sort of communications agenda during the process of building the system. A critical component of any UPD project plan is to ensure that end-users – districts and schools – are a part of the engagement process from the very beginning (JF).