September 30, 2019

Minnesota Leads the Charge in Counting All Kids

By Josh Crosson

To help ensure all students get what they need to succeed, we need to measure how they are doing and how their schools are serving them.

This month, Minnesotans got a first glimpse at new disaggregated data collected by five key rollout sites—both charter schools and school districts—under the All Kids Count Act. We applaud these schools and school districts and continue to praise this law that will undoubtedly lead to solutions to improve known and latent education disparities. Thanks to this law, Minnesota is improving data collection to better uncover hidden gaps and bright spots within the broad racial and ethnic categories we’ve had to rely on to date. Families, advocates, and analysts alike are looking forward to more detailed information as the law rolls out statewide.

How Minnesota is Leading on Data Disaggregation

The All Kids Count Act is a new law that requires the state Department of Education to improve how they report student data, breaking key metrics down along more nuanced categories of race and ethnicity. The law rolled out at five charter schools and school districts during the 2018-19 school year—including Community of Peace Academy, Minnetonka Public Schools, Schoolcraft Learning Community, St. Paul Public Schools, and Worthington Public Schools. The law will continue to roll out statewide in 2019-2020.

The law was passed in 2016 after families demanded changes to ensure all students are seen and reflected, and their needs no longer masked by categorizations so broad they are almost meaningless. Today, for example, we know how black and Asian students in Minnesota are doing but have no information on student groups within these broad racial and ethnic categories, such as Hmong and Somali learners. This masks disparities and makes it difficult to target and evaluate programs to support the most underserved students. Minnesota is a national leader in this work, joined by Oregon and Washington in advancing groundbreaking policies to break down and make the most of our student achievement data.

While the initial data is from just a small number of rollout sites, making it too small to identify broad trends, year one demonstrates investment from parents and schools alike. The rollout sites worked over the past year to gather more detailed information on ethnic identity for more than 4,000 students within the broader categories of Asian, black, Native American, and Latinx. Of those who reported their data, more than 90 percent provided more detailed information about their racial and ethnic identities. This is an important success that will help schools identify trends and better meet student needs.

Why Disaggregated Data Matters

The fact is you can’t manage what you can’t measure. If we are serious about addressing education injustices—and closing our persistent achievement and opportunity gaps—we have to disaggregate and cross-tabulate student data so that we can understand how students are learning. The fact that the Minnesota Department of Education and our Minnesota schools are becoming national leaders in implementing student data laws with fidelity is something to celebrate for families, policymakers, and everyone with a stake in education.

The bottom line is that families want and deserve clear information about how their local schools are doing. Whether they want to explore the best options for their kids, celebrate their school’s successes, or know where their school needs more support, they’re seeking clear, actionable information that reflects lived experience in our schools. Better data disaggregation can help policymakers and educators develop strategies to help all kids excel.