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Volume 114, Number 11 (2012)

by Erica O. Turner & Cynthia E. Coburn
Setting the stage for the special issue, this article discusses the increased attention to data use in policy and practice, provides an overview of the major ways that scholars have studied data use, highlights the limitations of the extant research, summarizes the contributions of the articles in this special issue to addressing these limitations, and previews the articles that follow.
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by Jonathan Supovitz
This article reviews the literature on the qualities of assessments and identifies three crucial test design elements that can provide insightful feedback to teachers about students’ understanding to inform subsequent instructional choices.
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by Julie A. Marsh
This article synthesizes what we currently know about interventions to support educators’ use of data—ranging from comprehensive, system-level initiatives, such as reforms sponsored by districts or intermediary organizations, to more narrowly focused interventions, such as a workshop. The article summarizes what is known across studies about the design and implementation of these interventions, their effects at the individual and organizational levels, and the conditions shown to affect implementation and outcomes, and concludes by suggesting directions for future research.
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by Jennifer L. Jennings
Many studies have found that educational accountability policies increase data use, but because accountability has been conceived of as one “treatment,” little is known about the features of accountability systems that are most likely to increase desirable versus undesirable uses of data. I define desirable data use as practices that do not invalidate the inferences about student- and school-level performance that policy makers, educators, and parents hope to make. This article proposes that five features of accountability systems affect how data are used and discusses what we know, and what we don’t know, about their effects. In each of these areas, I propose a research agenda intended to further our understanding of how accountability systems affect data use.
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by Alan J. Daly
This article offers that many data use studies suggest that the interpretation and use of data take place both within and between individuals who, through social interaction, are both co-constructing and making sense of data and their use. Given the increasing important role of social relationships in data use studies, better theorizing and deeper understanding regarding the dynamics of social influence and processes on the interpretation and use of data are needed. Social network theory and analysis offers a useful conceptual framework and accompanying methods for describing and analyzing the structure of a social system in an effort to understand how social relationships support and constrain the interpretation and use of data in educational improvement.
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by Jeffrey R. Henig
This article reviews political science theories and findings to inform our understanding of how politics affects efforts to increase data usage in education policy and school reform. Rather than block the door to politics, those who hope to promote informed policy making might consider ways to use politics to protect and defend high-quality data.
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by Janet A. Weiss
This commentary on the special issue on data use highlights the distinctions between data systems intended to improve the performance of school staff and those intended to hold schools and districts accountable for outcomes. It advises researchers to be alert to the differences in the policy logics connected with each approach.
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by Warren Simmons
This commentary draws on the articles in this issue to underscore the importance of community engagement and districtwide capacity building as central to efforts to use data to inform accountability and choice, along with school and instructional improvement. The author cautions against treating data as an all-purpose tool absent adequate attention to developing solutions to the problems data illuminate.
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by Melissa Roderick
This commentary frames the importance of the topic of this special issue by highlighting the changes that have occurred in school systems around data use, particularly in large urban districts, and the need for a more rigorous evidence base. Collectively, the articles in this volume provide a jumping-off point for such a research agenda around data use in schools. Each of the articles identifies significant gaps in our knowledge base and develops useful conceptual frameworks within which to think about the dimensions of data use, the quality of the research evidence, and the implications for the field.
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