Why Districts Are Struggling To Efficiently Meet ESSA Data Reporting Requirements

Posted by Bill MyersO

October 11, 2017

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) differs from its predecessor, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), primarily in the more well-rounded way it defines “success.” This change has allowed for greater emphasis on multiple areas such as the arts, increased funding for schools that are sorely in need of it, and decreased reliance on standardized testing. That said, ESSA does require districts to provide new information that had previously gone unreported — an adjustment that’s proving to be challenging.


From per-child funding allocation to individual absences, ESSA requires districts to report granular details that are challenging to measure and report at scale. While the data points needed to calculate this information does typically exist somewhere, it’s often siloed in disparate systems, simply because districts have not traditionally been required to aggregate it. The result is that districts are now unable to quickly and efficiently report on metrics — instead investing days or weeks of administrative bandwidth just to connect data points from individual teachers’ records and incompatible systems.


An Organization Problem: Why Reporting ESSA Data Is So Hard


ESSA has a unique set of requirements for how data must be organized and presented. In some areas, these requirements do not greatly differ from years past. In others — for instance, per-student spending allocation — districts are faced with a new method of reporting that can prove time-consuming and costly to meet.


Currently, most districts have a piecemeal view of different data sets. Assessment scoring can be stored in one system, snapshots of student enrollment at a specific point in time can live in another, and student attendance may exist in yet another. Often exported or held in a combination of Excel spreadsheets and binders, these various data sources are nearly impossible to efficiently integrate, and force district leaders to manually collect and organize information to meet state collection requirements.


This challenge is particularly apparent when it comes to per-student spending allocation and chronic absences. Most districts have unique methods for measuring and reporting spend and absences, as well as different definitions of key terms like “chronic.” These inconsistencies serve as a major hindrance to speedy aggregation that adheres to ESSA’s reporting standards.


Leveraging Cross-Organizational Platforms To Streamline ESSA Reporting


As districts become more accustomed to ESSA’s reporting requirements, many will likely need to overhaul existing methods of data collection and storage. Here are some of the capabilities you should look for while selecting an ideal reporting system:


  • Can it integrate data from all necessary sources?
  • Can it adhere to the reporting parameters and flexibility level of each state?
  • Does it provide near real-time updates?
  • Can it tailor calculation and analyses to ESSA regulations?


Ultimately, the move from disparate systems to a unified dashboard will enable school districts to rapidly adapt to future policy changes without the pain points they’re experiencing today.


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