Speakers at a forum about the use of longitudinal data in education stressed the importance of comprehensive data systems that follow students throughout their educational careers–from kindergarten to college–while also protecting students’ privacy.

Participants in the Data Quality Campaign’s March 10 forum in Washington, D.C., called “Leveraging the Power of Data to Improve Education,” said that if educators are to get the most out of using data to improve instruction, information must follow students from the time they enter the education system to when they ultimately leave.

“In order to achieve success, we need comprehensive data systems that begin in preschool and last through higher education,” said Reggie Robinson, president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents and chair of the State Higher Education Executive Officers. “We all need to be in this together.”

Robinson said most K-12 and higher-education data systems are set up independently from one another, and information flow between them is limited. But that needs to change, he said, adding that educators can ensure the success of their students much more easily if they have access to students’ entire educational history.

“We can find out what things suggest success in transferring students, not only from K-12 to higher ed, but also from a two-year school to a four-year school,” he said.

Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, agreed there needs to be more collaboration between K-12 and higher education on data systems development.

“We need to track students through college and use those data [to make informed decisions],” he said. “There is a lot of data collection that is merely being used to create data warehouses, without there being a coherent theory of action as to what we’re doing with the data.”

Dane Linn, director of the education division at the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices, said data systems can capture student achievement and identify achievement gaps.

“We have a number of youngsters who we need to bring up [to speed]. We can only do that by using data to close those equity gaps,” he said. “We need the research to inform policy. That’s critical to the success of all the investments.”


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