Means, B. (2005). Evaluating the impact of implementing student information and instructional management systems. Background paper commissioned by the Policy and Program Studies Service, U.S. Department of Education.
Integrated data systems that bring together student information collected at the classroom, school, district, and state levels in a way that can inform instructional decisions are considered one of today’s most promising trends in education. Because these systems support decision making by teachers as well as by administrators and because some of them incorporate formative assessments and curriculum resources, they have the potential to blur the traditional distinction between administrative and instructional computing systems. The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has made data-driven decision making one of its major initiatives and has commissioned two reports (Vision to Know and Do in 2004 and From Vision to Action in 2005) on the topic. The first of these articulated the high expectations for these systems:
Educational enterprises have also begun to apply the strategies and approaches of knowledge management to their practice. Sophisticated data collection and dissemination technologies combined with a better understanding of how human beings learn is transforming education [emphasis added].
This positive view is seconded in the recently released National Education Technology Plan 2004 (U.S. Department of Education, 2004), which highlighted the integration of data systems as one of its seven recommended major action steps and asserted that
Integrated, interoperable data systems are the key to better allocation of resources, greater management efficiency, and online and technology-based assessments of student performance that empower educators to transform teaching and personalize instruction. (p. 44).
In recent years, systems to support the integration of data from different levels of the education system in a way that can support decision making have been or are being developed by commercial entities (e.g., SchoolNet, SCHOLARinc), nonprofit organizations (e.g., Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing; National Study of School Evaluation), school districts (e.g., Montgomery County, Poway Unified), and states (e.g., Idaho, Virginia). This paper explores the drivers for this trend, the variety of systems no available, and the different purposes and emphases for their use, with the goal of helping to frame future evaluation research. It focuses on issues surrounding the use of the systems at the classroom and school levels, where they have the greatest potential to influence instruction and student learning.