Flagship Initiative, Transparency: ED Data Express

Aligned to goals:
  • 1.2: Make more data and information available to the public.
  • 1.6: Foster more transparency in the larger educational community.
  • 3.1: Enhance collaboration with other federal and non-federal agencies, the public, and non-profit and private entities.

The President's goals for education are:

  • for the United States to become number one in the world in the percentage of population with a college degree by 2020; and
  • for the United States to significantly reduce gaps in high school graduation and college access and success by 2020.

In order to achieve these goals, accurate, timely, and reliable information is needed to make changes that will significantly and quickly improve our education system and measure progress against the President's goals. For example:

  • Parents need to know the strengths and weakness of the schools in their community and be able to compare the schools their children attend to other schools in their community and in neighboring communities.
  • Teachers need to know which instructional methods meet the needs of their students and which interventions are most effective in addressing difficult problems. School administrators and policymakers need to know which programs are most effective in improving outcomes for students so programs that work can be scaled up and those that aren't as effective can be improved or discarded.
  • Researchers need access to information to help determine what works and what does not, identify areas where more information is needed, and drive innovative ideas to improve outcomes for students.

As technology rapidly transforms and improves the ability to share information and use it to improve outcomes for students, we must ensure individual privacy continues to be protected, people understand what the information means, and data are used appropriately.

A combination of strategic actions will be taken as part of the Transparency in Education Initiative, such as using ED Data Express to improve access to Department data and developing and implementing more robust technical assistance to ensure that privacy is protected.

ED Data Express Details

The site is in the final stages of development and focuses mainly on data reported by States on key K–12 programs funded by OESE. The site currently includes data from EDFacts, Consolidated State Performance Reports (CSPR), State Accountability Workbooks, and NCES.

ED Data Express utilizes a Web-enabled database application that allows users to select a particular data element (or set of data elements) and view it in several different ways. The site includes current and previous year data on student performance, demographics, accountability, and some statistical components. Data can be viewed in three ways: a State profile page, a data element explorer, and a build-a-table page. The State profile pages include charts and tables with key data for each State. The data element explorer allows users to view a single element across all States, both graphically and in a table. The build-a-table page allows users to build customized tables by selecting specific indicators and specific States. In addition to the data viewing tools, the site includes an "about" page with information about the collections and guidance for appropriate use, a page with definitions of important terms, a frequently asked questions page, and links to other education data resources.

The site is designed to be interactive and to present the data in a clear, easy-to-use way, with options to download information into Excel or manipulate the data within the website. Members of the general public, grantees, stakeholder groups, media, and Department of Education personnel who are interested in K–12 grant-related data are envisioned as its primary users. As such, the site is designed to accommodate different interests and types of users. For example, someone interested in quick information about a single State can view the State profile page for a general overview. Someone who is interested in information about a particular data element or who wants the flexibility to build a custom query can use the data element explorer or build-a-tables tool. The three tools incorporate graphs and charts to help users visualize the data. Future versions of the site will include additional data visualization tools, such as a mapping feature and enhanced graphing tools. ED Data Express is not intended to meet the needs of individuals, researchers, or organizations looking to do complex analyses; for that reason, it provides links to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) tools, so that users who are interested in using full and complete statistics on the condition of education in the United States may obtain those data. NCES is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations.

ED Data Express is also designed to interface with social networking applications, such as Facebook and Digg, to better share information in these newly emerging channels. As the public adopts new ways to access and use information, the more the Department can adapt and share information via these new channels, the more success we will have in reaching our audiences and addressing their interests.

OESE expects to launch the site during the summer of 2010, contingent upon final Departmental clearance and approval.

Promoting Transparency

All information contained on ED Data Express is currently publicly accessible in State-specific files. However, it is published in various places on the Department's website, mostly in a PDF format. The information is currently difficult to find, burdensome to update, and frequently is released with significant delays. The burden of compiling and using the data in this format is very high, since a user must open every State's PDF file and manually consolidate the information into a file that can be used for analysis. A design goal of ED Data Express is to provide an innovation with a clear "relative advantage" over the current process that is simple to use and provides various ways of viewing the data. In ED Data Express, the information will be consolidated into one location, and users can quickly select the information they need, view it several different ways, and download it into Excel for further analysis. With the data more readily accessible and easy to explore, the site will facilitate the ability of States and grantees to learn from one another, and help the Department learn how to share information properly with people who want to look at data but are less familiar with its use than researchers.

Promoting Participation

The increased accessibility and ease of use improve the ability of people to view, consider, and use the State-reported data. It enables the public and grantees to identify States that may be getting better results or using different approaches, and thus helps to inform their own decision-making and program development.

In addition, the ED Data Express website includes a user feedback survey that allows OESE to receive ratings, comments, and suggestions from users about the site. The survey tool is flexible so that OESE can add different questions to encourage continued feedback and dialogue. OESE has discussed the website at EDFacts and NCES conferences, and will continue to use those opportunities to discuss the site and solicit suggestions from attendees. OESE is also planning to meet with the EDFacts team's Standing Task Force, which is a group of approximately 10 SEA representatives (some of whom are EDFacts coordinators). EDFacts uses this task force as a sounding board for major new initiatives that they have proposed. OESE believes that this group could be a useful partner, especially in moving forward with the launch of the site and for future enhancements.