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High School Dropout, Graduation, and Completion Rates: Better Data, Better Measures, Better Decisions
RECOMMENDATION 6-2: All states and local education agencies should maintain written documentation of their processes, procedures, and results. The documentation should be updated annually and should include a process for adding elements or making changes to the system. When data systems or recording procedures or codes are revised, old and new systems should be used in parallel for a period of time to determine consistency.
The quality of the data begins at the point when data are collected and entered into the system. It is therefore important that training be provided for those who carry out these tasks. Extensive and ongoing staff training should cover the collection, storage, analysis, and use of the data at the state, district, and school levels. To this end, system developers should develop clearly defined, carefully articulated coding systems that all contributors to and users of the system can understand. As they do this, system developers should think about ways that those entering the data might interpret the rules in ways other than what was intended and try to prevent these misinterpretations. On this point, we recommend:
RECOMMENDATION 6-3: All states and local education agencies should implement a system of extensive and ongoing training for staff that addresses appropriate procedures for collection, storage, analysis, and use of the data at the state, district, and school levels.
An important mechanism for verifying the accuracy of data that are incorporated into the system is to conduct regular audits of the school systems. Audits can help to ensure that local education agencies are following the intended procedures that reporting of student enrollment status is accurate and that adequate documentation is obtained to verify the status of transfer students and students coded as dropouts. Audits can help to identify procedures or processes that are posing problems and can be used to improve instructions provided to school systems. We therefore recommend
RECOMMENDATION 6-4: All states and local education agencies should conduct regular audits of data systems to ensure that reporting of student enrollment status is accurate and that adequate documentation is obtained to verify the status of transfer students and students who drop out.