Skip to main content

Meeting of the Board of Regents | April 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 - 11:00pm

sed seal                                                                                                 






The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents


Johanna Poitier


Critical Data Issues Part I: Improvements to the K-12 Data System


April 14, 2009



Goal 1






Issue for Discussion


What actions is the Department taking to improve the K-12 data system and move toward a P-16 data system?  


Reason(s) for Consideration


              For information


Proposed Handling


              This item will come before the Full Board for discussion in April 2009.


Procedural History


              The Regents EMSC Committee discussed a report on improvements in the data systems in February 2009. 


Background Information


From Problems to Solutions


The Department’s data collection and reporting system is a critical tool to ensure high standards of quality education and accountability in schools across the State.  The system however, has experienced many problems during the past four years.  In addition to concerns expressed by members of the Board of Regents, field surveys  and conversations with the field indicate that reforming the data system is one of the highest priorities of school leaders.  Changing the data system is therefore a major part of our improvement initiatives in the P-16 operation. 


Earlier this year, we reported to the Board some initial actions we had taken to improve the K-12 data system to eliminate the problems and create a state-of-the-art data system.  The Department is now putting into effect a series of critical solutions and has secured needed supports to advance this operation organizationally and technologically, which will foster timely, more accurate and reliable data collection and reporting. 


The following is an update on a number of important developments to expand our scope of work and generate historic improvements.  They include:


Producing 3-8 ELA Results in Record Time


We have produced the Grade 3-8 English Language Arts test results in record time. We received them on April 2, only seven weeks after local scoring was completed and nine weeks after the tests were administered. This is an enormous reduction from the 16 to 33 weeks it has taken in prior years and was made possible with the dedicated commitment of the Regional Information Centers (RICs).  We have not yet released the scores, however, because schools will be closed for the holidays during this week and next week.   We will release the scores publicly after schools are back in session and have had an opportunity to review the scores. 


Producing Report Cards Earlier


The School Report Cards for the 2007-08 school year are being released publicly during the week beginning Monday, April 20. This is five months earlier than last year. We have also been able to shorten the processes involved so that School Report Cards for the 2008-09 school year will be produced earlier than ever before - in December 2009.  


Leadership Reorganization and New Chief Data Director Now on Board


When we last reported to you on data system improvements, we described how the Senior Deputy Commissioner had reorganized the testing and data operations in the Office of Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Education.  The new leadership structure for the data system is now under the new Assistant Commissioner for Policy and Strategic Planning - P16 (Alan Ray).  In coordination with the Chief Information Officer (David Walsh) from the Office of Information Technology Services, and the Assistant Commissioner for Standards, Assessment and Reporting (David Abrams), Alan heads up a Project Team of key expert staff that works closely with the Office of State Assessment to coordinate data reporting on State tests and their key data elements.


In addition to the new leadership structure and the interdepartmental arrangement with the Office of Information Technology Services, we have also hired an experienced new Chief Data Director; Ken Wagner.  Ken started a month ago.  This is a key leadership position that was vacant for a year and a half.  Ken was a school psychologist and then a school principal who is expert in statistics and the use of data to improve student achievement.  He most recently assumed a key administrative position at the Eastern Suffolk Regional Information Center.  All of this work gives him important firsthand experience and an understanding of State educational data from the perspective of the schools and BOCES.


The new Chief Data Director is providing strategic and management oversight for the Statewide collection, evaluation, implementation and reporting of all P-16 data.  He oversees the transformation of New York State’s data collection, management, analysis and reporting processes that contribute to its systems of school improvement, school accountability, policy development, and resource allocation.    


$7.8 Million K-12 Data System Grant Awarded


We are also pleased to announce that we have received a competitive four-year grant award of $7.8 million from the U.S. Education Department (USED) to help improve the K-12 data system and move toward a longitudinal P-16 data system.  This is one of the largest grants made to any state for this purpose.  The competition for this grant and the source of funding predate the new federal stimulus package (ARRA), however, it is important to our competitive edge for Race to the Top funds.   We will use the funds to streamline the data system, increase data quality and accuracy, make local reporting easier, support Regents policy and school district practice to improve student achievement, and reduce the cycle time for reporting to the public.


Major specific actions that we will take with the new federal funding include the following:


  • Create a School District Technical Assistance Center that will help train and continue to inform all school district personnel who work with student data. Schools have told us repeatedly that personnel who work in this field change frequently, and even those who are veterans need to be kept informed and trained to collect and report new data as it is required to meet federal and State purposes.


  • Create a Statewide Data Reporting Center. This center will become a primary vehicle to support school districts in the use of data to improve instruction. The center will collaborate with school districts and testing experts to create, distribute, and support a basic set of assessment analysis reports that will help districts to use data for appropriate instructional planning. We will create a technical infrastructure, hardware, software, and communications environment to make this possible.


  • Establish a Student Data Management System Certification Center. Currently, school districts use a wide variety of student data management systems, with different degrees of reliability and compatibility. This center will work with the commercial vendors of these systems and the school districts to make the different systems more uniform and functional for federal and State data requirements. All of this will make data collecting and reporting much easier and more efficient.


All of this is being coordinated with the work underway to develop a P-16 data system, designed to improve college-ready graduation rates and college completion rates statewide. The Parthenon Group, a strategic advisory firm with expertise on systems and data used to drive education reform, is facilitating the creation of an implementation plan in 2009 to identify the priority objectives of an integrated P-16 data system and detail the structure, resources, and technology needed to support an integrated P-16 data system. Funding for this process is being provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


              Progress on Actions to Improve the Data System


The reforms outlined above form only part of the picture.  Changes accomplished to date include a major ongoing redesign of the data infrastructure. This new design allows us to:


  • Collect and report data in a more timely way. There will be fewer separate public data releases, and the data that is released will be coordinated more effectively. For example, school accountability determinations, which have been made 8 to 10 months after the end of a school year, will now be made in 2-3 months, at the beginning of the next school year. School Report Cards for 2008-09 will be produced by December 2009 instead of much later in the year.


  • Keep in constant communication with school districts so we can respond to their needs. We first formed a “Datacore” group drawn from schools and BOCES (including District Superintendents, superintendents, principals, and district and regional data and information officers), to make recommendations for changes to the data system. It was essential to have the input of people closest to the day to day operations share their perspectives on practical ways to systematically improve our data system.


  • Build on the Datacore group by creating a new governance structure and putting in place advisory groups, first regionally and then at a state level.


  • Engage highly respected data experts, notably the Center for Educational Leadership and Technology and the Parthenon Group, to suggest solutions to data problems.


  • Provide electronic reports to districts so they can quickly review the data they report. With the help of the Regional Information Centers, we are now developing simple data validation reports that will show districts exactly the data they entered and how it appears in the data system. Districts can then revise the data more quickly as they find problems. These new reports will be available to districts this spring.


  • Introduce electronic checks and edits to help districts improve data accuracy. When districts enter the data for the first time, they will be electronically alerted if the data are incomplete, inconsistent, or obviously inaccurate. Districts will also be alerted if there has been a significant increase or decrease in a data category (e.g., graduation rate) from the previous year. In addition, districts will be able, through the use of a student’s ID, to determine whether a student has actually dropped out or transferred and enrolled in another district in the State. This will help districts keep more accurate graduation and dropout rates. Some of these changes have been made already and the rest will be put into effect this spring.


  • Eliminate the long delays districts have experienced in verifying their accountability and other data (the “spinning cube”) by providing faster alternative reports.  Without going through the nySTART system, districts will more easily be able to print and verify their data and the data will be consistent with that contained in the nySTART reports.  This will begin with the late spring-summer 2009 data verification. 


  • Coordinate the collection of both special education and general education data to eliminate duplication and confusion. In the past, EMSC and VESID collected data in different systems and at different times of the year. Our internal Project Team is creating a 2009-10 electronic calendar of all relevant data collection and reporting activities, including the State assessment schedules.  The calendar will be provided to districts via the website this spring. 


Through major leadership reorganization, securing needed supports and the re-engineering of the data system, we are developing a streamlined system that is more responsive to the needs of schools, increases data quality and accuracy, makes local reporting easier, supports Regents policy and school district practice to improve student achievement, and reduces the cycle time for reporting to the public.