Massachusetts is not the first state to create a data warehouse for educational data, but it is early to the field with a really robust set of tools for analyzing a variety of student information. For those of you new to data analysis (probably not many of you, but just in case), a data warehouse goes way beyond the databases we work with routinely. Wikipedia defines them as well as anybody:
...an expanded definition for data warehousing includes business intelligence tools, tools to extract, transform, and load data into the repository, and tools to manage and retrieve metadata.
In contrast to data warehouses are operational databases that support day-to-day transaction processing.
The Massachusetts Educational Data Warehouse is already populated with our state standardized testing scores (aka, MCAS), basic student data, and the ability for districts to easily "claim" students (and their associated data) who are transferring from other districts.
While this is clearly useful (our MCAS data represent the ultimate summative assessments as we examine the effectiveness of our curricula), the real power of the data warehouse is in its ability to store data from other tests and then perform longitudinal data analysis, slicing and dicing the data into subgroups and allowing far-reaching comparisons.
The state is also piloting programs allowing student information systems to interface with the warehouse and exchange data easily.
A good chunk of my summer will be spent working with the data warehouse; I certainly have a lot to learn about its ins and outs, but I also need to train staff who are increasingly using data to drive instruction. I'll report back on the good, the bad, and the ugly.