SDR Deposit of the Week: Improving educational equity

May 2, 2016
Regina Lee Roberts
Image of Stanford Education Data Archive Maps
Educational opportunity is an important issue in a democratic society. In the United States, measuring educational achievement and opportunity is complex because the public education system is diffuse. Funding for public education depends on a combination of local, state and federal governing bodies. The variations in funding and community level support for public education and standardized testing makes comparisons and analysis across the U.S. an arduous task. 
This is why the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR) deposit of the week is critically important to note. Stanford University Professor, Sean Reardon and his colleagues have just deposited the Stanford Education and Data Archive (SEDA) into the SDR for long term preservation. This is a data set that includes 215 million test scores and tackles the difficulty of comparing test score data from every public elementary and middle school in the United States for a period of 5 years, (2009-2013). What's brilliant about this collection of data is that, Reardon and his team developed a method to equate the scores across states for comparison enabling a whole new set of questions on educational opportunity to be answered, new stories to be told, and new questions to be raised.
Reardon and the SEDA team have been using the data to analyze patterns of opportunity, achievement and inequality in public education. This includes identifying patterns of inequality based on race, socioeconomics and gender. This data highlights nuances in inequality patterns that have not been available, on such a broad scale, to researchers before.
Now this data is being shared with other researchers. This past weekend, an article in the New York Times announced this groundbreaking work. In this article by Rich et al., Reardon is quoted as saying,
"...the analysis should not be used to rank districts or schools. Test scores reflect not just the quality of schools or their teachers, but all kinds of other factors in children’s lives, including their home environment; whether they attended a good preschool; traumas they have experienced; and whether their parents read to them at night or hire tutors."
This quote really emphasizes how this data has the potential to help us understand the deeper sociological impacts that inequality in general has on the public education system. The data provides us with a new lens from which to view and reframe the work being done on educational opportunity in the United States. And for some questions, it provides us with the evidence needed to make a case against gender bias, and racial and ethnic segregation, which continue to plague the public education system.
By sharing this data, the SEDA team is giving researchers, educators, policy makers, communities, parents and students better tools for understanding. The SDR is the institutional repository committed to long term preservation of this data, and we are very pleased that this data is now a part of the Stanford University Libraries' collections and archives.
The work of Reardon and his colleagues is also highlighted in the Stanford News, the CEDA newsletter, and was featured at the Berkeley-Stanford Conference on Inequality on April 15, 2016, which was hosted by the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality.
The data citation is: 
Sean F. Reardon, Demetra Kalogrides, Andrew Ho, Ben Shear Kenneth Shores, Erin Fahle. (2016). Stanford Education Data Archive.


Regina Lee Roberts

Bibliographer for Anthropology & Archaeology
Communication & Journalism
Feminist Studies
and Lusophone Africa Collections