A mixed bag of challenges, victories, and tragedies for the nation’s schools, the 2017-2018 academic year made it abundantly clear that accurate data is vital to students’ safety and success.

From the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to the thousands of students displaced from Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria to the teachers’ strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona, goings-on in America’s schools have played a pivotal role in shaping the country’s political discourse over the last academic year.

What’s more, the abundance of educators showing interest in running for public office suggests positive change on the horizon, especially in combination with the nation’s increased awareness of the issues surrounding student safety and success.

But while 2018 may mark a turning point in the state of education nationwide, implementing specific changes that capitalize on positive developments and address critical problems requires strategic action informed by accurate data. These recent statistics from The 74 Million illustrate three reasons why it’s so important for district stakeholders to adhere to best practices in data reporting.

The high school graduation rate in Washington, D.C.: 59%

At the end of the 2016-2017 academic year, 73% of high school seniors attending D.C. public schools graduated. That means this preliminary 2017-2018 number (some students may still be able to graduate after completing summer coursework) represents a double-digit drop in the city’s graduation rate — a notable outlier after years of steady improvement. While this drop seems shocking, it’s the result of a recent city-commissioned probe, which revealed that many chronically absent seniors were allowed to graduate in previous years despite failing to meet requirements.

Unfortunately, D.C. is not the only school district in the nation dealing with its chronic absenteeism problem ineffectually. Most measures of daily attendance record a school’s attendance rate, not those of individual students — even though actions as simple and cost-effective as calling home can reduce absences and increase a student’s likelihood of graduating.

Greater likelihood of low-income students graduating if they attend a career or technical high school: 21%

Support for career-oriented education is on the rise on both sides of the aisle — and with good reason. Career and technical schools offer low-income students a path to a diploma and employment that may not have otherwise been available to them. The significantly increased odds of graduating prove that, for many students, these schools are an excellent alternative to a traditional secondary school path.

However, in Ohio — where 22% of all high school students were enrolled in career or technical schools in 2014 — these schools can present an added challenge for administrators. Because students typically split time between their main school and a technical center, administrators of different facilities must carefully coordinate with each other to track attendance and time logged at each school to ensure that they are getting the funding to which they are entitled.

The number of people killed or injured in school shootings in 2018: 112

A Florida gubernatorial candidate made waves in May when she claimed that more students had been killed in schools than soldiers in combat zones during the first five months of 2018 — and with some caveats, she’s technically correct. This year’s especially high number of school shooting casualties means that districts have a responsibility to be more precise than ever when recording and reporting data.

An example of data reporting gone awry occurred recently when the Maine Department of Education failed to accurately compile data on the number of weapons found in its schools, inducing alarm in many Maine communities. While misreporting this particular data point is especially egregious, any dataset that a district fails to accurately record and report has the potential to result in diminished funding — including for critical safety and security measures.

That’s where a tool like Vinson’s CheckPoint EMIS Platform becomes invaluable. CheckPoint is the only way for schools to ensure that they get the maximum amount of funding from both state and federal authorities — funding that contributes to keeping students safe and equipping them to succeed.