Can they be this obsessed with data?

data

Can they be this obsessed with data?

Look at some of the data that U.S. Education Department is requiring organizations that receive Promise Neighborhoods grants to collect and report:

The number of  kids in the initiative who are getting five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

The number of kids participating in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.

The number of parents who report  talking with their child about the importance of college and career, and a lot more.

The Promise Neighborhoods initiative is based on the famed Harlem Children’s Zone in New York, which provides health and social services to children within a specific area of Harlem as well as academic help to improve educational outcomes among poor children. The idea is a good one, but unfortunately, the administration provided far less funding for this than it did for its Race to the Top education initiative, which is focused on standardized test-based accountability efforts in schools.

The administration’s obsession with test and other “data” was clear when Obama recently referred to a new effort to rate colleges as a “Datapalooza.” The plan calls for the creation, by 2015, of  a system to rate colleges and universities and then link federal student aid to those ratings by 2018.  Unfortunately, some of the data points initially mentioned make no sense, such as evaluating schools on the salaries of their graduates. If they did this, schools would only want to graduate Wall Street bankers.

Some (certainly not all) of the data points required in the Promise Neighborhoods initiatives also beg some rethinking, given that the information sought is nearly impossible to accurately gather. For example, one could determine that children have hour-long physical education classes every day (though hardly any do), but how would participation be verified?

Here, from the Education Department website, are the requirements for collecting and reporting specific strands of data. Do you think the department has gone overboard in its zeal for data:

 

Chapter 4: Government Performance and Results Act Indicators for Promise Neighborhoods 51

How to Use this Chapter 52

Data Collection for Children Enrolled in Case Management System 54

GPRA 1. Number and percent of children, from birth to kindergarten entry, who have a place where they usually go, other than an emergency room, when they are sick or in need of advice about their health.  59

GPRA 2. Number and percent of three -year - olds and children in kindergarten who demonstrate at the beginning of the program or school year age-appropriate functioning across multiple domains of early learning as determined using developmentally - appropriate early learning measures. 63

GPRA 3. Number and percent of children, from birth to kindergarten entry, participating in center - based or formal home - based early learning settings or programs, which may include Early Head Start, Head Start, child care, or publicly - funded preschool.  67

GPRA 4. Number and percent of students at or above grade level according to State mathematics and English language arts assessments in at least the grades required by the ESEA (3rd through 8th and once in high school). 73

GPRA 5. Attendance rate of students in 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grade. 76

GPRA 6. Graduation rate (as defined in the notice). 79

GPRA 7. Number and percent of Promise Neighborhood students who graduate with a regular high school diploma and obtain postsecondary degrees, vocational certificates, or other industry - recognized certifications or credentials without the need for remediation. 81

GPRA 8-9. Number and percent of children who participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily and consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily. 88

GPRA 8: Number and percent of children who participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. 88

GPRA 9: Number and percent of children who consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily. 91

GPRA 10. Number and percent of students who feel safe at school and traveling to and from school, as measured by a school climate needs assessment. 96

GPRA 11. Student mobility rate (as defined in the notice). 100

GPRA 12. For children birth to kindergarten entry, the number and percent of parents or family members who report reading to their children three or more times a week. 102

GPRA 13. For children in kindergarten through 8th grades, the number and percent of parents or family members who report encouraging their children to read books outside of school.  105

GPRA 14. For children in the 9th to 12th grades, the number and percent of parents or family members who report talking with their child about the importance of college and career.  108

GPRA 15. Number and percent of students who have school and home access (and percent of the day they have access) to broadband internet and a connected computing device.  112

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · October 17, 2013