Report Cards Community of Practice Summary

CoP Description: Since 2016, state educational agencies (SEAs) have implemented several changes to their state report cards in conjunction with their approved Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) consolidated state plans. They have incorporated new required data elements and sought to ensure that report cards clearly communicate complex data to various internal and external stakeholders.

States continue to improve communications about the meaning and utility of report card data for specific stakeholder audiences—especially parents and families—as an important step to empower these stakeholders in supporting school improvement efforts. States’ overarching concerns, as identified through the State Support Network’s (Network’s) needs-sensing conversations, include (1) ensuring data transparency while also building and maintaining public trust, and (2) helping stakeholders understand some of the complexities in reporting and interpreting report card data without overwhelming or confusing them.

The Community of Practice (CoP) focused on improving communications through a series of five topically driven learning cycles:

  • Challenges and Opportunities in Report Card Communications
  • School-Level Per-pupil Spending Calculation, Reporting, and Communication
  • Communicating Disparate Data
  • Communicating the Meaning of Data Elements
  • Communicating Why the Data Elements Matter

These learning cycles provided opportunities for CoP members to address the following cross-cutting issues:

  • Report card communications strategies for a variety of external stakeholder audiences, including parents and families, community members, and advocacy groups, as well as internal audiences including SEA divisions and local educational agencies (LEAs).
  • Opportunities to learn from SEAs and experts in the field who have identified or developed promising strategies that SEAs can use (or have used) to communicate effectively with stakeholders and to gauge the effectiveness of those communications.
  • Communication opportunities and navigating challenges with regard to data-reporting requirements as described in the U.S. Department of Education’s updated non-regulatory information.
  • Opportunities to share state communication strategies and resources and to receive feedback from other CoP participants, including activities that identify common issues across participants and sharing of practices/solutions that peer participants have used to address those issues
  • Opportunities to create or refine an action plan for improving report card communications

The CoP focused on strategies that are promising, build the capacity of SEAs, sensitive to the communication needs and styles of various stakeholder audiences, and provided access to relevant resources. Participants were presented with opportunities to discuss common issues and receive information on best practices and strategies.  In addition, they explored other topics raised by CoP members, such as building shared meaning around data point points across an SEA with senior leadership and technical staff, leveraging the expertise of communications directors to hone key messaging, and coordination with LEAs to tailor communication strategies.

Participating SEAs: Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Washington

CoP Duration: November 2019 through March 2020