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The Forum Guide to Data Ethics
NCES 2010-801
March 2010

The Data Quality Canons

School districts use data in countless ways, and data quality issues arise quite frequently. For example, in a single grading period, one school district dealt with several ethical concerns related to producing accurate, useful, and timely data:

  • The district found itself with disparate sources of free- and reduced-lunch eligibility data, and administrators realized that the absence of a single, authoritative source was leading to inconsistent, and even biased, reporting because one set of data or the other was being used depending on how the results looked to the person providing the data.
  • Standardized test scores appeared to have improved, but the district realized that it would be wrong to let people assume the results measured improved academic achievement when, in reality, they probably reflected a change in the assessment tool.

How should staff respond to these situations?
What principles should guide their decisionmaking?