The Bush Institute, part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, recently released an online State of Our Cities tool with the potential to become a very useful information resource. State of Our Cities: Profiles of Education Performance around the Nation provides comparable education data on 114 cities in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

The cities in the data collection include some of the biggest: New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The tool includes numerous smaller cities, too: Mesa, AZ.; Paterson, N.J., Arlington, VA and Green Bay, WI.

This data helps mayors better engage in their city’s education landscape. But it is also helpful as states and local district gain more flexibility under the new ESSA legislation. Districts will now be more involved in deciding how their schools will be run–and this data can help!

More Than a Dozen Indicators

The State of Our Cities tool lets users make comparisons at the state, national, and even global level. It includes data from the Trial Urban District Assessments (TUDA), EdFacts state assessment data, and the Bush Institute’s Global Report Card.  Users can compare their city’s performance against others using more than a dozen different indicators. Among them: teacher salaries, percentage of new teachers, chronic student absenteeism, high school graduation rates, completion of federal financial aid forms, performance on state tests in reading and math, and middle school algebra completion rates. The site also provides city-level information on early-childhood programs, including enrollment and eligibility. The tool collects data from public sources by either downloading publicly available files or directly contacting public institutions.

This is a small data set, but one that is fun to explore. I’m struck by how hard it is, even with the resources available to the Bush Institute, to gather reliable and comparable data. I often find myself searching without much success for information that seems like it should be readily available. Even if I find it, finding the same bit of information for another school district, even in the same state, is difficult. The Bush Institute plans to update the State of Our Cities every two years. I hope they also decide to expand its scope.