New York State collects all of the student data it needs to meet federal guidelines, but the state has a ways to go before it starts using the data in ways that will boost student achievement.

That’s the conclusion of a report released last week by the Data Quality Campaign, an initiative of a group of education and legislative organizations meant to help states build their data tracking systems.

Since 2005, the group has surveyed each state’s education department to draw a picture of what kinds of student information school systems gather and how they use it to boost student achievement. The campaign compares each state’s system against a list of ten elements it calls “essential” for robust data tracking and another ten “actions” it says states should take to best use the data they collect. The initiative’s list matches the federal government’s criteria for student data tracking systems, which all 50 states committed to building as a condition of receiving stimulus dollars.

New York’s data tracking methods now include all 10 of the elements the campaign says comprise a good system. (Four of those elements — including the capacity to follow K-12 students into college and track their progress and a way to link teachers to their students’ information — have been added in the past year.)

But the state has so far taken only four of the ten steps the campaign says are needed to put that system to good use.  Among the actions New York has yet to implement:

  • The state has not yet made data for all individual students who are being tracked available to their teachers and parents through online portals. Nor has the state developed “progress reports” for individual students and their parents and teachers that track performance over time.
  • New York already has linked its K-12 data systems with its public universities so schools can track how their cohorts of students do through college. But the initiative also recommends linking school data to early childhood information as well as to data about the workforce — neither of which New York has done.
  • The report recommends that states use their data collection efforts to develop reports on how different districts and groups of students have done over time which can then be used by policy-makers and school officials to make decisions. For example, middle schools could use information about how their students perform in high school; high schools could analyze which benchmarks best predict college success.
  • The report also recommends that New York share data with teacher preparation programs and require the programs to train teachers to analyze student data.
  • Finally, the analysis recommends that the state provide opportunities for non-educators — including parents and policy-makers — to learn how to analyze and interpret student and school data.

Building up New York’s data tracking systems was a major part of the state’s successful bid for federal Race to the Top money, and state officials’ plans include many of the steps outlined by the initiative.

Read the full analysis of New York’s data-gathering efforts here.