A Balanced Diet of Education Data

by EdCircuit Staff

From The Washington Post

Google is tracking students as it sells more products to schools, privacy advocates warn
 | December 28, 2015

In public classrooms across the country, the corporate name that is fast becoming as common as pencils and erasers is Google.

More than half of K-12 laptops or tablets purchased by U.S. schools in the third quarter were Chromebooks, cheap laptops that run Google software. Beyond its famed Web search, the company freely offers word processing and other software to schools. In total, Google programs are used by more than 50 million students and teachers around the world, the company says.

But Google is also tracking what those students are doing on its services and using some of that information to sell targeted ads, according to a complaint filed with federal officials by a leading privacy advocacy group.

And because of the arrangement between Google and many public schools, parents often can’t keep the company from collecting their children’s data, privacy experts say.

Read more of Peterson’s post.


edCircuit Guest Op-Ed

Who Is Really Responsible for Bad Data Use?
By Jenny Grant Rankin, Ph.D. | May 4, 2015

If your students scored 11% to 48% correct on a test, would you give them each an A+? Would you consider them proficient and trust them to tutor their peers on the test’s content? I’m guessing you wouldn’t be pleased with 11-48%. Most educators don’t find that performance to be sufficient.

Yet evidence suggests the inferences educators make when they view data are only 11%to 48% accurate. Educators use data to inform their decisions, and those decisions ultimately impact students. Thus most educators don’t find poor data use to be sufficient.

So we educators strive to improve our data use. The most common interventions we apply are:

  • more (and improved) training for educators
  • added staff to support educators (e.g., data coaches)
  • stronger leadership in data use

Who is responsible for each of those added interventions? Educators are. Educators are the ones who fund those efforts, arrange those efforts, find time for those efforts, and participate in those efforts. It’s no wonder educators are exhausted.

Professional development (PD), support staff, and leadership to improve data use are beneficial and recommended. However, they still leave educators with no more than 48% accuracy when using data to inform decisions. Educators need to remember the fact that they are highly qualified, well-educated, and intelligent and consider whether there is another factor impacting their data use – a factor that is not their fault. Because there is.

Read more of Rankin’s position.


Most will tell you that the use of education data is paramount to 21st century education akin to starting your day off with a balanced and nutritious breakfast. Dr. Jenny Rankin (see TED Talk above) takes an interesting look at how data and the lack of thoughtful communication and dissemination have impacted humans on many levels. The question being why haven’t we figured out what is and is not off limits regarding data and its’ role in education policy and practice.

At some level are we not embarking on a slippery slope already paved by social platforms, financial institutions and healthcare management systems? Data, in those instances, has become a part of the global fabric of what it means to be a human being. Only in education are we quick to halt data sharing in the name of what is supposed to be sacred (our children). The very children for whom data is like candy consumed before, during and after class with the ease of a Pez dispenser.

We can absolutely be mindful in our education data practices, but we ought to be practical as well. Young people understand that their digital footprint can be as identifiable as their own human tissue. The question becomes how we structure data discussions and practices around commonsense to inform not only student outcomes, but trends in behavior, the application of technology informing the commerce side of edtech development and to drive productive legislation. Should parents and educators be worried that Google may or may not be tracking data of students? Only time will tell. It is up to the adults, in the room, to decipher what to serve for breakfast tomorrow. 


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