States have more capacity than ever to use secure education data, but need to place a greater focus on using the right data to answer the right questions to improve student success, according to the Data Quality Campaign’s ninth annual state analysis, Data for Action 2013: Right Questions, Right Data, Right Answers. The new analysis of 49 states and the District of Columbia finds that states have made tremendous progress shifting their vision—and the use—of their education data systems from data collection for compliance to data collection for effective use in the state house, in the district office, in the classroom, and at the kitchen table.

For the first time ever, two states — Arkansas and Delaware — have achieved all of DQC’s 10 State Actions to Ensure Effective Data Use. These two states have marshaled the leadership, policies and resources to overcome the barriers of turf, trust, technical issues and time that many states still face.

"State leaders increasingly recognize that empowering parents, educators and policymakers with the right data at the right time in the right format better ensures our young people graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education and careers," said Aimee Rogstad Guidera, executive director of the Data Quality Campaign. "We applaud Arkansas and Delaware and know many states will follow in their footsteps."

The majority of states (41 states) are supporting data use with funding and policies, an increase from 27 states in 2011, which shows a commitment to sustaining the work over time and adapting systems to the changing needs of the education field and ever-evolving technologies. However, most states have yet to use their data systems to answer the deepest questions of parents, teachers and other stakeholders, such as "Is my child on track to graduate college and career ready?" or "How do I know if my students are learning the material?" In addition, states take seriously their responsibility to ensure that data are used appropriately and student data are kept private and secure. For example, Oklahoma has passed legislation to establish new procedures and safeguards for the collection and use of student data.

Right Questions, Right Data, Right Answers also took a look at how to measure quality implementation of state education data efforts. A group of state and national education and policy experts determined the criteria and evidence for five areas that focus on teacher effectiveness and college and career readiness.

States can look to Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington state as exemplars for providing top-notch high school feedback reports that are easy to read and interpret.

Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio provide teachers with access to their students’ data via cutting edge secure, Web-based portals that integrate state and local data and are customizable at the local level.