Data Quality Component 6: Stakeholder Connections and Communication

Stakeholder connections and communications within and across SEA programs and departments, districts, and schools may include the transmittal of data, written documentation of data policies and practices, discussions among staff and with management, and participation in professional development. It also includes the relationships constructed external to the SEA or district, such as with policy makers, researchers, parents, and the general public. Connections and communications are more than simple dissemination of information; rather, they involve meaningful two-way communications with active contributions from a variety of stakeholders to the work of the SEA. Ensuring the use of appropriate methods of communication will be important based on which stakeholders are involved and the level of understanding they have of data shared by the SEA. When new data are being introduced into discussions, it will first be necessary for the SEA to explain the reasons and purpose for the data and how the data will be used. The following considerations outline how SEA staff may consider how new or revised stakeholder connections and communications play a role in the larger data quality system.

  • Crafting key messages: SEA staff will need to craft clear messaging for why new data element(s) are being collected to communicate their importance to particular stakeholders. SEA staff should also involve stakeholders in refining and sharing these messages, and may want to develop communications materials (e.g., one-pagers, FAQs) for district staff to share with families and the public that communicate the purpose and importance of new data elements.
  • Communicating data: SEAs are responsible for determining how, through school report cards and other methods, to best communicate data about students, schools, and districts across their states to SEA and district staff and policymakers. The ESEA, as amended by ESSA, requires greater data transparency based on new report-card requirements, including financial data and data on new subgroups that span different demographics, such as students in military families and students in foster care. A number of states have created data dashboards to communicate this information, some states have constructed data portals for parents, and several states have developed strong partnerships with many kinds of stakeholder groups (e.g., with universities, advocacy organizations, other governmental agencies), to assist in achieving their goals to get information out that is useful and easily understood by broader audiences. See below for more information about California’s strategies for communicating with their stakeholders about state data.

SEAs can use the Data Systems Self-Reflection Checklist to consider how their current actions promote quality data systems. To download the Data Systems Self-Reflection Checklist, click here.

For more information on how California is currently approaching stakeholder connections and communication around data, please see the vignette below.

Enhancing Greater Communication with Stakeholders About K–12 Data in California
California Department of Education logo

In 1996, the California Department of Education (CDE) developed strong partnerships to assist in achieving their goals to get information out that is useful and easily understood by broader audiences. They partnered with two independent, statewide organizations, the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) and EdSource, to launch Ed-Data—a website for education stakeholders and the public that offers timely and comprehensive data about K–12 education in California.

The Ed-Data website—created through a unique partnership of K–12 education organizations in California known as the Education Data Partnership—offers accessible data, articles, a glossary of related data definitions, data-comparison tools, tours for use of the site, and additional information with explanations about the data in reports that can be generated from the website. Three main sources of data are integrated and featured on Ed-Data, with much of the data spanning multiple years. CDE data staff share fiscal, demographic, attendance, and student-performance data from local educational agencies for Ed-Data’s profiles and reports, in addition to expertise to design, update, and enhance the usefulness of the resource. EdSource provides analyses, graphic displays, and contextual information for Ed-Data. Staff at EdSource also monitor the website’s user information to help enhance the resource. FCMAT hosts and maintains the Ed-Data site and offers financial and demographic data on schools throughout California.

Ed-Data is particularly useful to educators, state and local policymakers, parents, and the general public when making decisions related to resource allocation and school choice. Feedback from stakeholders using the site is always welcome and constantly solicited. Recently Ed-Data was redesigned, enabling users to have easier access to state-, county-, district-, and school-level reports specific to users’ needs and to related articles. A helpful tool was also added for greater usability that highlights common questions frequently posed by education stakeholders in the state and links to reports that answer those questions. Ed-Data includes a Frequently Asked Questions About Data page to further assist stakeholders to use California’s K–12 education data. Partnerships between SEAs and external organizations, like the one established in California for Ed-Data, can be a powerful tool for communicating with stakeholders and increasing the use of state education data. For further information about Ed-Data, contact CDE’s Data Reporting Office at or 916-327-0219.

Stakeholder Connections and Communication Resources:

American Association of School Administrators. Using Data to Improve Schools: What’s Working. Alexandria, VA: American Association of School Administrators.

Weiss, Heather B., M. Elena Lopez, and Deborah R. Stark. Breaking New Ground: Data Systems: Transform Family Engagement in Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project, National PTA, 2011.

State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) Grant Program:

Chang, Jana, Jan Fukada, Shane Hedani, Ross Goldstein, Kara Arzamendia, Anita Larson, and Kathy Gosa. SLDS Webinar: Strategies for Building Capacity and Evaluating Stakeholder Data Use. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017.

Data Quality Campaign. What Parents and Teachers Think About Education Data. Washington, DC: Data Quality Campaign, 2018.

Education Trust–West. “Data Equity Walk Toolkit.” Education Trust–West. (accessed October 26, 2018).