Maine joins New England states to create common system for reporting on educational performance

PORTLAND – A consortium of states including Maine has released two years of reports created under a first of its kind regional common data project.

Beginning in 2009, the five state education agencies participating in the New England Secondary School Consortium (NESSC) —Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont—have been collecting, calculating and reporting high school graduation rates, high school dropout rates, and postsecondary enrollment, persistence and completion rates using a common set of procedures and methodologies developed by a regional team of data specialists from each of the five state agencies. This week, the consortium is releasing the first two annual reports on public school performance for the 2011–2012 and 2012–2013 school years.

“These reports signify a huge step forward in regional collaboration,” said Beth Miller, director of research and evaluation for the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. “For the first time, five New England states have come to agreement on how they measure student outcomes, and furthermore are sharing that information with the public. The data in these reports have been critical to the foundation as we measure college readiness in the region, and I’m sure many other organizations and individuals will find the reports equally significant.”

While education agencies throughout the country have made significant investments in their individual state data systems, the NESSC’s Common Data Project may be the first initiative of its kind to bring together several states in a collaborative, multiyear effort to improve the accuracy, reliability and comparability of public-education data across state lines. As more school-improvement initiatives and programs use state-collected data on public schools to determine priorities and measure progress, data quality has become an increasingly higher priority for educators, policy makers and philanthropic foundations.

“As we work to improve the college and career readiness of Maine students, it’s critical we understand their outcomes both in our high schools and in our postsecondary institutions, and how they compare to those being realized by students throughout the region,” said Maine Department of Education Acting Commissioner Rachelle Tome. “Through this unprecedented collaboration with our New England colleagues, we are improving data quality and consistency across our five states so that education leaders, policy makers, and members of the public can be better informed in making data-driven decisions that truly improve how our public schools are supporting students and preparing them for success after they graduate.”

Through the Common Data Project, the five agencies of education develop standardized procedures intended to eliminate unwanted variance that may result from divergent system designs, differing interpretations of agreed-upon rules, or computational errors. Recognizing the critical importance of accurate, high-quality data when it comes to making informed decisions about improving public schools, project leaders also created a series of quality-control mechanisms that further improve the reliability and comparability of state-reported data. No personally identifiable student data is shared.

The project’s first two annual reports as well as the guidelines developed and followed by the participating states, are publicly available on the NESSC website at newenglandssc.org/resources/data

The New England Secondary School Consortium is a regional partnership working to advance forward-thinking innovations in secondary education that will empower the next generation of citizens, workers, and leaders. The consortium is funded by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and coordinated by the Great Schools Partnership.