Research Debrief: Using Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems to Support College and Career Readiness

Posted by Jeff Watson on Feb 22, 2018 3:49:42 PM



States are beginning to draw on longitudinal data to highlight college and career student outcomes. We break down how this data can inform new educational strategies and examine the results states are already seeing.


One of the most significant challenges educators face stems from the fact that student success plays out over the course of decades. With class after outgoing class of students graduating or moving onto the next grade level each year, it can be hard to maintain perspective on the overall success of individuals or groups of students. How did my students progress hold up in their future studies? Are our students prepared for college and a career? Who’s falling behind and who is thriving under our current strategy? How can we prevent struggling students from falling through the cracks?

Answering these questions requires a high-quality longitudinal data system to store, analyze, and report K-20 data. Since the early 2000’s, states education agencies have been developing Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) under the US Department of Education SLDS program (e.g., see the report by AIR’s CCRS Center). A high-quality SLDS plays a critical role in a state’s plan to improve educational outcomes for students because it can greatly increase the visibility of outcomes as well as the factors that drive success. An SLDS can connect the dots of a PK-20 system that would otherwise be reported and analyzed in a fractured and disjointed fashion. The work of past SLDS projects has been (rightly so) ensure that various data collections are 1) connected through student and teacher identification systems 2) reported securely to a wide-range of stakeholders and 3) connect key predictor variables to milestones and outcomes.

Great work should continue to receive support from state and federal policymakers. However, I would also note that while these systems are critical for raising visibility, they may not be sufficient to support action. What I mean is that the people who are most likely to impact outcomes (e.g., teachers) need timely data that is specific to their students. From a teacher’s perspective, the window for improving students CCR readiness is short. Teachers must be able to identify their students’ strengths and challenges before the start of the school year. Likewise, they must be able to measure their students’ progress on a daily and weekly basis. Perhaps most importantly, teachers must have the capacity to reflect, collaborate, and adapt their practice.

At Hoonuit, we support both state and district longitudinal projects. For example, in Wisconsin, we support individual districts, as well as a consortium of districts, and also the state’s SLDS project. We have a unique perspective on how SLDS can continue to improve their capacity to support districts and schools. State agencies tend to have different challenges than districts, so it isn’t fair to compare state and district data projects. However, districts play a critical role in guiding SLDS efforts to become more relevant in instruction.

Over the next 10 years, SLDS projects should continue to develop system-wide and student-centered reporting and analytics. Successful projects should do three things: 1) collect data at a more-detailed (less aggregated) form 2) collect data with less latency and 3) continue to expand the scope of SLDS data. In this regard, states should also continue to learn from and include districts as they push their SLDS projects forward to 2020 and beyond.

Hoonuit provides an intuitive, centralized platform where educators efficiently identify patterns and explore causes. Click here to learn more about how Hoonuit’s data analytics solution can help your educators transform their approach to fostering long-term student growth and success.


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Topics : Data & Analytics, Research, College & Career Readiness