Education’s Shift of State Level Longitudinal Data to the Districts

The shift in data use from compliance to improving education outcomes is well underway.  Happening across the nation, district level implementations of data rich environments are creating adaptive systems that are improving the education of students.  This is evidenced by the adoption of early alert/warning systems, the rise of personalized interventions, as well as initiatives, including Race to the Top and the pending Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in 2014.


As data systems mature, the appetite for data-centric environments increases.  The collection of longitudinal data has begun to influence practices at the district level and has shifted the need for data to the classroom, as well as the other direct participants in the education process.  Today, districts are tracking progress across school years to predict future performance, and evaluate connections among outcomes and classroom experiences to help inform interventions, classroom and school practices, and district and state policies.


So, what is the role of the State Education Agency (SEA) with this pending shift?  For the past several years, states have been busy deploying and upgrading Longitudinal Data Systems primarily to capture and organize billions of detailed education records.  This data is summarized into reports for the many accountability requirements that have been enacted over the past decade, including EDEN/EDFacts, AYP and much more.  Building upon previous reporting that looked at isolated snapshots in time, current reporting requires consistent data across time so change can be easily tracked.  This has required implementation of thousands of data quality rules at the elemental level, just so the aggregated facts are consistent.   Now that required reports look at changes in the aggregate performance of ethnic groups over time, it is very important to understand how much change is attributable to change in the reported ethnicities of individuals (more than you might think) and how much is attributable to the performance of members of the group.  This and literally thousands of other situations must be managed just to have accountability data that represents a true picture of system performance.


Of course, understanding system performance and accountability is only the first step.  The same data that is being captured, cleansed and organized for accountability can be extremely valuable in the performance improvement process.  Over the years, districts have deployed data to identify opportunities to improve curriculum, identify students in need of additional help and more recently to begin to deliver truly personalized educational pathways.   Although districts have found that these initiatives can be highly successful, they have also found that developing and maintaining the underlying data systems can be an enormous and expensive task.  As a result, generally only large, or wealthy districts have had these powerful systems at their disposal.   So, what about the vast majority of districts that are not large, or wealthy?


This is where SEAs have found a very valuable new role to play.  A number of them now have at least some of the data that districts need in order to help students and they have it for all the districts, large, small, rich and poor.  The statewide systems they have deployed can offer the capabilities districts need and the economies of scale to leverage data to help every student in the state.  SEAs are beginning to deliver value back to districts with reporting and data-driven applications that take advantage of data cleansing and collection that is already being done.  They are also taking a leadership role in understanding how data is used to create a more effective environment at each level.  The result is more collaborative data environments that feed the SEA requirements, better support the individual school districts and increase teachers ability to make timely decisions to improve interactions with students.  One example is the vision of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to create a statewide district-facing warehouse for its more than 1,250 districts and almost five million students.  Texas has been a leader in collecting and leveraging data at the state level for more than 20 years and some of its districts have been on the leading edge of using data to help improve education.  TEA is looking to combine these successes and simultaneously improve state data collection and improve the use of data for all districts, large and small.


Texas’ deployment of a district facing warehouse will provide access to valuable operational and student-level information from which to make decisions.  The information that is collected ranges from student attendance records to assessment results, financial budgets and will support the analytic and reporting needs of SEAs to a wide range of stakeholders and users, including administrators at all levels, teachers, counselors, support staff and students.  This vision is well represented at The Texas Data System.


A recent whitepaper from the Data Quality Campaign, dated May, 2011 “Leveraging the Power of State Longitudinal Data Systems” did a nice job of outlining the level of classroom analysis and questions that an SEA will be able to answer when data is collected and accessed correctly.  This includes:


  • Teacher value-added analysis
  • Student annual growth model
  • Regression analysis to determine the amount of student test score variability that can be attributed to teachers or schools
  • Correlation between student course grades and scores on state/district assessments
  • Analyses of student performance one to three years later


eScholar sees every day working with our district and state partners, that data, when captured, organized and analyzed, can greatly influence the education process.  The market continues to mature, identify new ways to align the data closer to the student and create efficiencies through the use of data.


This blog was created to share with readers our observations and insights into how data is being deployed, the outcomes achieved (both good and bad), and insights that may be helpful to others.  I know this conversation will benefit from different perspectives and I welcome your feedback.


Also, if you believe there are topics where our perspective on the exciting data work occurring across the country could be helpful, please feel free to ask.


Wishing us all success in the most important endeavor there is- education.





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