Education Data in 2025: Fifteen Years Hence, We Will Know Exactly How Well Our Schools, Teachers, and Students Are Doing

By Finn, Chester E., Jr. | Education Next, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Education Data in 2025: Fifteen Years Hence, We Will Know Exactly How Well Our Schools, Teachers, and Students Are Doing


Finn, Chester E., Jr., Education Next


Please join me on a short, visionary tour circa 2025, and let us glimpse the central role that data have come to play in American K-12 education.

Perhaps the most profound advance since 2010 is that individual achievement and attainment records for every subject are saved (with elaborate safeguards) in cyberspace and secure state databases, where "unique student identifier" numbers make it possible for data to be readily aggregated without revealing individual identity and for analysts to investigate things like learning gains by pupils in various schools and circumstances.

Student assessments (formative, summative, informal) are completed electronically, many through adaptive online programs. Software automatically analyzes the resulting information to create a data dashboard for each pupil, showing what has been mastered and what still needs work. Most assessments are graded by computer, although teachers read essays and occasionally offer separate "hand-graded" scores on other assignments. Instant preliminary feedback is the norm, and the official results, checked over by a data team, are available soon thereafter.

An artificial intelligence program periodically "sifts" each student's cumulating education record to answer--especially for parents, teachers, and counselors--such key directional questions as whether the student is on track for college when she completes high school. Are there any warning signs of academic (or other) problems that warrant a change of course, maybe even a swift intervention?

Parents can log on and view their child's cumulative report card, which is continually updated, not just with test results but also with sample work, attendance data, and teacher comments.

Multiple teacher web sites offer resources for planning lessons and obtaining supplementary materials. These include most everything an instructor might need, from student readings, workbooks, assignment ideas, web links and mini-tests to audio and video snippets for classroom use. The online curriculum vault includes thousands of videos of master teachers delivering lessons, and interactive web sites host discussion groups (most enable participants to view as well as hear and read each other). Increasing portions of students' days are given over to virtual education: watching lectures, participating in online discussions, making productive use of software programs, e-mailing or conversing with distant experts, and teaming up with peers as much as half a world away. …

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