The State ESSA plans are approved, accountability systems have been transformed, and agencies are now charged with collecting additional, impactful data. On top of the new reporting requirements, states must continue to make sense of, and good use of, this data for it to be beneficial beyond funding.

In 48 states and the District of Columbia, student growth measures play a key role in ESSA plans. Growth Data: It Matters, and It’s Complicated, published last month by the Data Quality Campaign, outlines how states are measuring growth and what that means for accountability systems. Growth is an important indicator for understanding student progress and supporting school improvements. Whether you’re using a value-added score, a gain score, or a student growth percentile, one thing is for sure: You accumulate an incredible amount of growth-related data. This wealth of data collected from multiple sources, feeding various downstream applications from a state’s official report card to teacher dashboards, isn’t maximally valuable unless it’s leading to better classroom supports.

Student assessment is key to student growth. Both the traditional—interim, benchmark, end of course, and summative—and the more innovative—social emotional learning and competency-based education. At Ed-Fi, we are excited to see states and districts leverage the assessment domain to support the collection of assessment data for student growth. Our Assessment Work Group is working to ensure the Ed-Fi Data Standard and our other technology is supporting a better understanding of student growth.

Nebraska’s state accountability system, Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow (AQuESTT), is an example of the use of growth data. Their system combines multiple measures of performance and growth, including statewide testing data and other student-level data. And in Delaware, their accountability system will continue to measure student progress over time with a model that uses a statistical technique to identify the effects of the education system on student achievement, isolating these effects as much as possible from other factors that influence student achievement.

This year, both Nebraska and Delaware will begin to leverage their Ed-Fi implementations to collect the data that is required for their state’s accountability systems. Both states are also working to ensure the use of the Ed-Fi Assessment API to easily and securely pull statewide testing information from their vendors.

States are also newly required to publicly report school-level finance data as required by the ESSA Financial Transparency provision. By the end of the year, state report cards must include the per-pupil expenditures for each school disaggregated by source of funding. This public reporting requirement is designed to provide clear and transparent information on school spending and give school boards, superintendents, principals, and parents the information they need to ensure equity and make better funding decisions.

A new reporting requirement typically means new data, and this is no exception. Per-pupil funding represents a significant increase in the amount of data states need to collect from their districts. Beyond the volume of data, this requirement has raised questions about what data elements are included, how to define that information, and how to collect it. Last year, Ed-Fi launched a Finance Workgroup to address these questions, and in August released a sponsored set of standardized finance extensions to meet the needs of state ESSA reporting.

In Wisconsin, this domain will be tested in the wild this fall upon the completion of the API development, and pilot the collection of the chart of accounts, local accounts, local actuals, and local budgets via that Ed-FI Finance API. With data coming into the Ed-Fi ODS, Wisconsin will more easily meet the ESSA requirement—but that is not the only benefit. Using this API-based system will ensure more accurate financial reporting, improve grant management and monitoring, and assist LEAs with other reporting requirements such as Civil Rights Data Collection. Statewide implementation is planned for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

When it comes to accountability and financial transparency, the devil is in the data. Luckily, our community is well-versed in tackling these sticky data challenges! As states work on refining their data collection and improving their accountability systems, the Ed-Fi community is here to help. With any questions on ESSA, or to get involved in our work groups, feel free to contact me at maureen.wentworth@ed-fi.org.