Driven by Data

DC Data Validation: Improving your process

Throughout the year OSSE and PCSB ask schools to “validate” a number of student data points – from re-enrollment rates to PARCC achievement subgroup scores. Schools are asked to review and certify certain groups of data in OSSE’s or PCSB’s databases and confirm their accuracy (versus the school’s internal records). While data validation can feel daunting, making a roadmap at the beginning of the school year allows you to streamline validation task management during the school-year when there are so many competing priorities. 


What is data validation?

When you validate your data with either PCSB or OSSE, you are agreeing that the data is ready for inclusion in local and federal reporting as well as accountability framework metrics (e.g., STAR and PMF). Scores on these frameworks become publicly available and inform parents’ decisions on where to enroll their students. PCSB also uses PMF performance to make determinations about charter continuance. 

Additionally, the accuracy of your data is critical to help diagnose how students are doing and which students need additional support. When you know that information about individual students is correct, you can feel more confident in the analysis done at the school or district level.


What makes data validation so challenging?

There is a lot of data to validate! There are phases, multiple rounds, ticket submission windows, and review windows. It seems like it never ends! 

Here is a high-level overview of a typical DC charter school’s annual data maintenance timeline.

We group the primary challenges to smoothly handling all of these validations into three areas: 

  1. Internal collaboration: Data validation spans lots of different types of data (from attendance to academic performance) and requires different staff to review, update, and confirm the accuracy of each data type.
  2. Long timeline: Data validation is an ongoing process. Keeping track of all the deadlines requires planning.
  3. Multi-Step Process: There are a lot of steps in the review and submission process with interim deadlines: review, ticket submission, troubleshooting, access to the right databases.

How can data validation be made easier?

As we alluded to in the opening paragraph, making a roadmap at the start of the school year should ease some of the pressures created by the number of year-round validations. This roadmap should include

  • deliverables
  • deadlines
  • interim checks
  • responsible parties

Let’s refer back to the data maintenance timeline above to begin constructing the roadmap. We see that OSSE data validation tasks (deliverables) are concentrated in the winter and spring (deadlines). To prepare for these tasks, we can prioritize weekly, monthly and quarterly data review and clean-up during the late summer and fall (interim checks).

For each data review/clean-up, we need to identify 1) who will own the process, 2) who will support the process owner (if applicable), and 3) a brief description of the process needed to complete the check (responsible parties). Here’s a portion of an illustrative list:

In sum, data validation requires a fair amount of organization and attention to detail, but the benefits of complete and accurate data are well worth the effort.

[This post contributed by Allen Daniel, Senior Data Specialist and Carla Davis, Data Specialist.]