According to a recent EdWeek article, in the first annual reports filed by states to account for spending $44 billion of one-time education aid to  support education budgets during the recent recession, notable progress was made in improving school data systems and more equitably distributing highly qualified teachers across all schools. The economic stimulus package, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, poured nearly $100 billion dollars into education.  The largest portion allocated to the $48.6 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which required states to show improvement in four specific areas: low-performing schools, data systems, teacher effectiveness and standards and assessments. While the U.S. Department of Education requests some specific questions, such as whether a state’s data system meets certain criteria, other questions were more open-ended.  Despite the differences in reporting criteria, a clear trend emerged that State Fiscal Stabilization Funds clearly improved school data systems and improved equity in the distribution of highly qualified teachers in the following ways:
  • Thirteen states reported that their longitudinal-data systems feature all 12 elements outlined in the America Competes Act, a law that focuses on strengthening the nation’s economic competitiveness.  The data includes tracking student progress from pre-school through college and monitoring student-level transcript information.
  • All states have noted progress or have solved the challenge of equitably distributing highly qualified teachers across all schools, including schools that primarily serve poor and minority students.
  • Seventeen states report they did not analyze the appropriateness and effectiveness of testing accommodation to English language learners and special education students.
While it is encouraging news that the stimulus funds had notable impacts in these areas, questions remain on how to use the data.  In evaluation discussion, a common analysis method is called “What? So What? What Now?”  It appears that these recent developments provide the “What,” the information we found out.  But more discussion and analysis needs to be done on the “So What?”- the implications of the new information and the “What Now? – next steps to consider based on the implications we found out.  So as the story goes – Stay tuned.

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