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Education department seeks funding for data system

IThe state Education Department wants the Legislature to provide $16.5 million to finish modernizing a computer system that tracks the attendance and test scores of individual students.

The funding request for the Student Accountability Information System is a priority of state Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal for the legislative session that begins Jan. 13, The Arizona Republic reported.

Legislators will be considering a budget for the state fiscal year that begins July 1. Gov. Jan Brewer has not yet released her budget proposal.

The Legislature last year provided $7 million for data-system improvements, less than half of Huppenthal’s request.

Huppenthal said the work is needed because the current system is burdensome to use and doesn’t provide timely data to classroom teachers.

“Right now, when a student moves from School A to School B, it sometimes takes months for the data to move,” Huppenthal said.

So, the education system wastes money because schools give newly enrolled students diagnostic tests that the students’ previous schools had already administered, he said.

“The current data system is a burden to schools,” Huppenthal said. “We are adding unneeded costs and bureaucracy to their operations.”

Huppenthal said he wants the system to provide teachers with “dashboards” that display student data instantaneously.

The Education Department is testing such a system in several schools this year. If all goes according to plan, dashboards will be available to all schools in the state by the end of 2015.

“The advantage to the system we are designing is that teachers would not only know that a student is struggling with math,” Huppenthal said. “They would have access to test results that show exactly what part of math they are having trouble with, like factoring.”

The department’s plan has backing from Expect More Arizona, a public-education advocacy group.

“A better-functioning data system should be a priority because Arizona teachers, students and parents will benefit from it directly,” said Pearl Chang Esau, Expect More Arizona’s president and chief operating officer.

“If we are able to provide high-quality, accurate data to teachers, they are better-positioned to make meaningful decisions about how to tailor what they are teaching to meet student needs,” Esau said. “Parents will have access to ongoing information about how their child is doing and whether they are on track to succeed academically. Students will receive higher-quality education that is more tailored to their needs.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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