conferences

What To Expect at the STATS-DC Education Data Conference

One of the most exciting conferences in the realm of education data is the NCES STATS-DC Data Conference. If your interests and work involve education statistics, this is a great opportunity for learning and networking. STATS-DC attracts approximately 800 to 900 attendees, and there are multiple simultaneous sessions.

STATS-DC in a nutshell

The annual STATS-DC conference is sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Education. “STATS-DC” is not an acronym, but a shortening of the word statistics, plus a mention of Washington, D.C., where the conference takes place. This year’s theme is “Visualizing the Future of Education through Data.” The 2018 conference will be held during three consecutive days in late July.

One important feature of STATS-DC is that U.S. Department of Education offices provide updates and training on federal policies and activities that affect data collection and reporting. Another highlight is presentations by state and local education agency personnel who work directly with data collection and reporting, as well as by experts from other organizations who share strategies and ideas involving education statistics. Finally, since the conference draws participants and presenters from diverse locations—including a variety of specialists in education and data—it offers great networking opportunities.

Twelve kinds of presentation topics

Many presentations occur simultaneously at STATS-DC—typically 10 presentations at once in 10 rooms. To decide which you are interested in attending, refer to the 2018 Agenda at a Glance, available on the IES conference web page (also provided on paper in the conference registration packet). The Agenda at a Glance color-codes presentations by topic. There are 12 topics, and each presentation is assigned to one of them, based on its content:

  • CCD: The Common Core of Data is a national database that contains information collected from public elementary and secondary schools.
  • Data Collection: Federal, state, and local agencies collect data about education—a large logistical operation.
  • Data Linking Beyond K-12: Linking data from K-12 to early learning, higher education, and workforce provides information used to support students.
  • Data Management: Collecting, storing, and using data requires governance, oversight, and procedures.
  • Data Privacy: When personal information is collected, privacy and security concerns are paramount.
  • Data Quality: It is important that data are as accurate and precise as possible.
  • Data Standards: The education data community is forming common standards, or understandings, about what terms mean and how they are used.
  • Data Use (Analytical): Analysts use data for analyses such as time series, for academic research, and in many other ways.
  • Data Use (Instructional): Educators use data to improve teaching and learning.
  • Fiscal Data: Data on finances can help agencies, districts, and schools plan budgets and use resources efficiently.
  • SLDS: The Statewide Longitudinal Data System Grant Program provides grants and resources for the development and expansion of student-level state data systems.
  • Other: Some presentations may not fall into any of the above categories.

To decide which presentations you would like to attend, you may also wish to read abstracts. Abstracts offer more detailed information about each presentation than is available in the Agenda at a Glance and are available on the Agenda tab of the NCES STATS-DC web page. The Agenda will not be included on paper in the registration packet. However, it is posted online in both HTML and PDF formats, and complimentary Wi-Fi will be available to conference participants in the meeting space.

Making plans to attend STATS-DC

QIP staff will be attending STATS-DC this year, as we have every year for many years. We are currently preparing for the event as described in our recent blog post about how to maximize the benefits of a professional conference. If you are a member of the education statistics community, are interested in learning more about education data, or are attending for another reason, we look forward to seeing you there.

To register and access details about the event, visit the NCES web page on 2018 STATS-DC. If you are unable to attend STATS-DC in 2018 but are interested in attending in a future year, check for updates about future conferences on the IES web page on conferences, workshop/training, and technical assistance.

Maximize the Benefits of Your Next Professional Conference

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Attending a professional conference should not be an exercise in hoop jumping, but an opportunity to enhance your career in meaningful ways. After all, attending a conference consumes more resources—including money and time, for you and your organization—than staying at the office. It makes sense to get the most out of every conference you attend. Consider following these tips to gain the most benefit from your next conference.

Choose a conference carefully. It is likely that there are more conferences in your professional field than you have the resources to attend. Instead of choosing one at random, or based on one factor, such as location, take time to research options and weigh multiple factors. Here are questions you might ask:

  • To perform my job, is it necessary that I acquire the information presented or shared at the conference?
  • Will I learn a new or relevant skill?
  • Is there a way for me to contribute to the conference as a presenter or participant?
  • Are the people who attend the conference people I should communicate and network with?
  • Is the cost of the conference worth what I will get out of it?

Prepare beforehand. Decide which sessions you’d like to attend, and create a schedule of how you will spend your time. You might make spur-of-the-moment adjustments, but having a general itinerary is important so you don’t miss an important session or event. Also, look into whether there are any pre- or post-conference sessions or meetings that you might be interested in attending. Finally, update and remember to bring your business cards and any other materials you may want to share with others.

Talk to people. The word networking gets so much press that it can seem more complicated than what it really means—talking to people. No matter how shy you feel, strike up conversations, and engage with those who speak to you. Great relationships often begin with a spontaneous conversation between strangers. Conversations can occur before sessions begin, after sessions have ended, in the hallways between sessions, and at social receptions. Networking is at least as important as learning at conferences—some suggest even more so. According to a Chronicle of Higher Education article about academic conferences, “networking is the whole point.” Networking is also one of the most commonly overlooked opportunities by conference attendees.

Take (the right amount of) notes. While attending sessions, write down important information that you may find useful later. However, don’t focus so much on taking notes that you don’t actually listen to what the speaker is saying. QIP Proposal Manager Mary strives for a balance between engaging with what’s happening and recording key details that she can refer to later. That way, she doesn’t miss out on the learning opportunities of the moment—or the learning opportunities that will come when she’s back at the home office. You can also look into whether presentation slides will be made available to participants after the conference. If so, you will not need to write down anything that’s on a slide, just a note to yourself to access the slides later.

Follow up afterward. It’s easy to slip back into your day-to-day routine without incorporating anything you learned or reconnecting with anyone you met—but don’t allow this to happen. It is important to be proactive after the conference has ended. Capitalize on the benefits of attending, because otherwise they slip away. For example, QIP Project Associate Dee makes sure to use the business cards she obtained to contact the people with whom she networked. Other QIP employees have contacted speakers whose presentations piqued their interest. By contacting fellow conference participants, you can continue, or begin, professional conversations for mutual benefit. Also remember to incorporate the knowledge and skills you learned into your professional life. Refer to your notes and any available slides, and make changes accordingly. You might also share your findings with your teammates. For instance, QIP Communications Director Deanna has given presentations on what she’s learned at conferences and on how the organization can incorporate the lessons into their work.

Maximizing the benefits of a professional conference takes a bit of effort and initiative, but the career advantages you will gain are worth it. Attending a conference allows you to learn new things and connect with people in your field, and these insights and connections will stay with you long after the conference has ended. Remember, for best results, it is important to take actions not just during the conference, but also beforehand and afterward. Following these tips can help you advance your career and be a leader in your organization and professional field.