View from SXSWEdu: Changing Views of Education Data?

Last week, the Spotlight team traveled to Austin for SXSWEdu for the fourth straight year. We noticed some significant shifts in the education data conversation. 

Three years ago the conversation centered on InBloom, an ambitious and grandiose effort to create a unified data standard across school systems and education technology providers. Our view: noble idea, insufficient inattention to execution -- and a gross misreading of the public's views on privacy.

Cue 2015 and '16: The pendulum swung far and fast, and most conversations about education data centered on student privacy. Maintaining students' privacy -- maintaining the integrity of "PII" (personally identifiable information) is vital, of course. But most of the panels and presentations thus neglected to tell the positive story of all the good that can come from secure data collection, analysis and implementation. 

In 2017 we heard new rumbles, around equity of data use. This is Spotlight's central concern: that inequitable availability of insights from data leads to an "information gap" which, in turn, exacerbates the achievement gap: educators and parents in low-income communities often don't have access to the same level of actionable, insightful data, and thus aren't able to use state-of-the-art tools among the students who typically need it most.

This data-equity conversation was a breath of fresh air. We're delighted to have a voice in it, however small.