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Parental Educational Decision Making: The Information They Seek and What They Want From Data Systems


by Ellen B. Mandinach, Ryan C. Miskell & Edith S. Gummer - 2020

Background/Context: Parents are important consumers of educational information, especially with stipulations in ESSA. Yet, research on parental information needs is limited. It is important to understand how the information is displayed for parents in accessible and understandable ways. This study uses a theoretical perspective of parental engagement and social networking to ground the research.

Purpose/Objective/Research Questions: Education is awash with information. This study sought to understand the nature of the information parents seek to make decisions about their child’s education. It also sought to understand the characteristics of data displays that would make information accessible and understandable. What information do parents seek to make decisions about their children’s education? Where do parents go to obtain educational information? What sources do parents access to obtain the needed information? What design characteristics do parents prefer to help them navigate websites and understand the presented information?

Setting: The study took place in focus groups held across Missouri.

Population/Participants: Twenty-one focus groups were convened with 118 parents from urban, suburban, and rural areas of Missouri.

Intervention/Program/Practice: Focus groups addressed the need to involve parents in educational decisions and their need for data. They were asked a series of questions to elicit responses about the information they seek to make decisions about their child’s education. Parents were also asked about the design, ease of access, and understandability of data displays.

Research Design: The study used small focus groups and a standardized interview protocol. To elicit more detailed and deeper focused responses, alternative prompts were used to ensure that participants understood what was being asked.

Data Collection and Analysis: Parents responded to structured questions and visual displays. Responses were recorded through comprehensive note taking. The responses were analyzed using ATLAS.ti to identify underlying themes.

Findings/Results: Parents seek qualitative data sources that supply descriptions of schools and districts. They want not only test scores and school grades but also information that helps them understand the schools. They want details about the teachers, leaders, and programs offered and information about safety and processes. Parents want the information presented in accessible and understandable formats that include better graphics and more easily understood details.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Education agencies need to consider how to present diverse information that will meet stakeholders’ needs. This is relevant because not all parents are familiar with data displays. Parents seek descriptive data that are locally relevant and represented on school or district websites and data systems.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 122 Number 1, 2020, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22944, Date Accessed: 12/8/2019 6:56:22 PM

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About the Author
  • Ellen Mandinach
    WestEd
    E-mail Author
    ELLEN B. MANDINACH is a senior research scientist and the director of the Data for Decisions Initiative at WestEd. She has worked in the area of data-driven decision making for over 15 years to understand how to help educators use data more effectively. She has studied data use in classrooms, schools, districts, and state departments of education. Mandinach has served on numerous national advisory boards around data use. Her research interests include data literacy, data-driven decision making in education, the integration of data literacy into teacher preparation programs, and the use of data to improve teacher preparation programs. Her two most recent books are: Mandinach, E. B., & Gummer, E. S., (Eds.). (in press). Data for continuous programmatic improvement: Steps colleges of education must take to become a data culture. New York, NY: Routledge. Mandinach, E. B., & Gummer, E. S. (2016). Data literacy for educators: Making it count in teacher preparation and practice. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
  • Ryan Miskell
    WestEd
    E-mail Author
    RYAN C. MISKELL is a research associate in WestEd’s Learning Innovations program. His work involves the evaluation of programs implemented by schools, districts, states, and foundations to inform and improve educational policy and program decisions. He also provides technical assistance and training to school leaders and teachers to build capacity and improve programs. Recent work has included monitoring of the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter School Program and Magnet School Assistance Program grantees, evaluations of the special education programs of two school districts in Maryland, and technical assistance provided to three charter networks in Washington, DC. Mandinach, E. B., & Miskell, R. C. (2018). Blended learning and data use in three technology-infused charter schools. LEARNing Landscapes, 11(1), 185-200.
  • Edith Gummer
    Arizona State University
    E-mail Author
    EDITH S. GUMMER is the executive director of the Office of Data Strategy in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. She has been a program director at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the National Science Foundation, supporting the funding of research and development in education with a specific focus on STEM education. Her research interests focus on the effective use of information to inform educational decisions ranging from instructional decisions in the classroom to educator preparation programs. She has been supporting the development of a research agenda in personalized learning with LEAP Innovations and serves on the advisory board of a number of organizations that support education entrepreneurs. Mandinach, E.B. & Gummer, E.S. (2016). Data literacy for educators: Making it count in teacher preparation and practice. New York: Teacher College Press: NY. Gummer, E. S., & Mandinach, E. B. (2015). Building a conceptual framework for data literacy. Teachers College Record, 117(4). Retrieved from http://www.tcrecord.org/PrintContent.asp?ContentID=17856
 
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