Chapter 1. What Are Metadata and Why Are They Important? - The Key Points of this Chapter
- Metadata systems may not have been necessary when data sets were relatively
small, simply organized, and used by only a handful of people. However, the
education enterprise has grown in complexity over the past decades, resulting
in the exponential growth of information collected, stored, managed, used, and
reported by education organizations.
- Metadata provide the context needed to interpret data, and are most simply
defined as "data about data." A more technically precise definition is
"structured information that describes, explains, locates, or otherwise makes
it easier to retrieve, use, or manage information."
- High quality metadata deliver too much value to dismiss them as anything less
than an essential business management tool. They are the backbone of efficient,
accurate, and useful data systems.
- A robust metadata system improves the accuracy of data use and interpretation,
as well as the efficiency of data access, transfer, and storage. The benefits are
numerous for a wide range of education stakeholders, including policymakers,
administrators, technologists, program staff, and instructional staff.
- Developing a metadata system is a substantial undertaking that requires
significant time, expertise, commitment, and money; but a sound metadata
system should yield benefits that far outweigh the costs of implementation.
Why should instructional staff, such as teachers and principals,
care about metadata?
Data are frequently used to evaluate school, student, and even teacher performance. Anyone
with an interest in accurate and fair school evaluation should have a corresponding interest
in improving the accuracy and transparency of data collection, maintenance, reporting, and
use—all of which can be derived from a robust metadata system. Furthermore, instructional
staff and students benefit when metadata help make information needed to guide instruction
available in a timely manner and useful format.