LDSs are sometimes viewed skeptically, as tools to monitor and punish staff members. For instance, some fear that student test score data linked to teachers will be used to determine bonuses or target individuals for termination or transfer. However, the reality is much more complicated. At both the district and state levels, data have been used to reward effective teachers, identify struggling ones to target professional development, and identify and remove ineffectual educators. These data are also being used to evaluate teacher preparation programs, identify effective ones to improve pre-service training curricula, and to hold chronically ineffective preparation programs accountable. The main value of an LDS, however, is its ability to help determine what works, identify ways to improve instruction, tailor approaches for individual students, recognize problems early on to prevent academic failure and dropouts, and automate and streamline daily administrative operations. Most education leaders agree that these systems should be used to empower staff by giving them access to valuable information, not to punish. In fact, some states have gone as far as to pass laws prohibiting punitive uses of the data.
State, district, and school leaders must build trust through clear communication and collaboration within the education community to assuage fears about LDS misuse. While student data can be very useful in teacher evaluations, they should be only a component of the process and a wide range of indicators should be used. By providing a more complete and detailed view of student learning and educational inputs, longitudinal data can, in fact, make the evaluation of educators and schools a fairer process, one that is more likely to be embraced by all parties than snapshot data points and other imprecise measures.