Data Systems and Informed Education Policy

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Written by: Zeke Perez Jr.
Oct. 20, 2016

On Nov. 16, 2016, revisions to the key takeaways of this 50-State Comparison (and blog) were made. 

The importance of data in informing education policy has grown over time, especially as states tackle more complex policy issues spanning the P20W spectrum. In these cases, longitudinal data is vital. K-12 and postsecondary data sharing to produce high school feedback reports and college readiness reports, for instance, allow states to address issues such as postsecondary attendance, remediation, attainment and more. These types of analysis are difficult, if not impossible, to create when data systems aren’t connecting effectively.

Education Commission of the States’ previous coverage of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) examined each state’s ability to share student-level data between agencies and found that no states were prohibited from doing so. To expand on that, Education Commission of the States explored which states connect data, what types of data they connect, how those connections originated and how they are structured.

The newly released SLDS 50-state comparison begins by looking at which states have received federal SLDS grants from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to help data-related projects. Over the course of six rounds of funding, NCES awarded grants to 47 states and Washington D.C., to support projects related to data use. The three states that did not apply for or receive a grant are Alabama, New Mexico and Wyoming. The other 47 states D.C. are in a wide range of different places in the process of establishing a P20W system.

Thirty-seven states and D.C. connect data between at least two educational systems, and only 16 states and D.C. have full P20W systems, connecting early learning, K-12, postsecondary and workforce data. In talking with states, Education Commission of the States staff found that a number of reasons exist for this drop off, including political and financial obstacles, and public concerns about privacy and data use. A number of states are still in the process of creating systems to begin linking data or to link data across the full P20W spectrum, so those numbers are likely to rise in the coming years.

For more detail about state data systems, including information about establishment and structure, please visit the 50-state comparison and be on the lookout for a SLDS report in the coming months.

Author profile

Zeke Perez Jr.

Zeke Perez Jr.

Assistant Policy Director at Education Commission of the States |

As an assistant policy director, Zeke tracks legislation related to statewide longitudinal data systems, school safety and postsecondary campus safety. He has been with Education Commission of the States since 2014. Zeke has a passion for local politics and enjoys following the varied policy approaches of city and state leaders.

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