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We might lose AP exam data used to fight America's STEM deserts

The Department of Education has proposed stopping the collection of Advanced Placement exam performance data from U.S. schools. This decision is dismaying, disheartening and wrong. This is the very time we should be expanding access to data and increasing transparency, not limiting its collection, analysis and action.

While debate over the role of the U.S. Department of Education wages well into a fourth decade, there can be little question about the need for data to know where government, corporate and philanthropic dollars are most needed and most effective at driving better and lasting student outcomes. 

Among other things, the AP testing data help identify STEM deserts. These areas fail to offer rigorous math and science classes that provide students with knowledge, skills and dispositions to reach their full potential and thrive in the 21st century economy.

Already, the nation has identified a massive gap in girls and minorities striving in the growing fields of STEM studies and professions. School systems that fail to offer rigorous and independently assessed classes in these subjects increase the number of students missing out on potential opportunities.

Organizations like the National Math and Science Initiative and its funding partners cannot efficiently identify schools and communities in need of support without uniformed and systematic data. At the same time, the impact of spending from across the spectrum — including corporate and philanthropic investments, as well as federal, state, local tax revenue — cannot be adequately measured without consistent data collection.