September 4, 2009 – Washington, DC – This week the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) hosted a forum to highlight the unprecedented opportunities states have to leverage stimulus (ARRA) and other federal funding to build and use aligned and interoperable P-20/Workforce data systems, that collect information on how individuals are doing over time– from early childhood through high school and into postsecondary education, training and the workplace. A rapidly changing global economy and concerns about our ability to create a competitive workforce demand that our education and training systems strengthen our capacity to collect, analyze, and use this information to ensure that every individual has the knowledge and skills he or she needs to succeed.
 
The foundational role of data in the stimulus provides a strategic opportunity for states to build the political will and take practical steps to remove current barriers to accessing, sharing and using data to improve student success. The U.S. Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services are collaborating in new, unprecedented ways to demonstrate and communicate how state agencies can work together to link data across sectors, avoid duplication, and protect privacy. They discussed how the alignment of data initiatives outlined in Race to the Top, State Fiscal Stabilization Funds, and the IES Statewide Longitudinal Data System grants, as well as in new legislation and budget requests, will provide greater transparency around federal programs to ultimately empower parents to make the best decisions for and with their children regarding their education and career paths. Specifically, these departments are collaborating to clarify positions on FERPA, identify key components of successful early childhood state models, examine the connections between postsecondary education and the labor market, and develop common data definitions and standards across federal agencies.
 
The forum, “Leveraging ARRA and Other Federal Funding Sources for P-20/Workforce Longitudinal Data Systems,” is archived at www.dataqualitycampaign.org/resources/648 and featured:
  • Joan Lombardi, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Carmel Martin, Assistant Secretary, Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, U.S. Department of Education
  • Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary, Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
  • Gerald Zahorchak, Secretary of Education, Pennsylvania Department of Education
  • Aimee Rogstad Guidera, Executive Director, Data Quality Campaign
 
“As demonstrated by the Recovery Act and the Administration’s broader education agenda, we firmly believe in the power of using data to improve instruction and increase transparency,” said Department of Education Assistant Secretary Carmel Martin. “The Administration is committed to supporting state and local efforts to put in place data systems that can be critical tools for improving schools and providing parents and other stakeholders the information they need.”
 
Congress and the Obama administration have provided the federal leadership through the stimulus and the FY 2010 budget to highlight the integral role of longitudinal data to all other education and workforce development improvements. As this panel demonstrated, leadership across federal agencies are eager to help states “connect the dots” among and across federal and state agencies and various federal funding and federal programs available to them. 
 
 
As states tap into these federal dollars to develop and implement longitudinal data systems, they need to keep in mind the types of questions and conversations that are underway to support actions that promote a culture of continuous improvement throughout the human capital pipeline.
 
“We need to be able to answer the question:  how many children are in high quality early childhood programs? The collaboration across federal agencies, and with states, can help us answer key questions about children, staff and the quality of early childhood programs,” said HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary Joan Lombardi.
 
“The Employment and Training Administration is committed to helping the workforce system access the data needed to develop and sustain high quality training and education programs,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Jane Oates.  “By linking educational data with labor market information, we will deliver on our promise to offer workers and students only the best in career preparation resources.”
 
State leadership has been critical to the development of “built to stakeholder use” data systems. States have made remarkable progress and are well poised to take advantage of the historic opportunity to leverage one-time federal funds and resources to think creatively and break down traditional barriers to implementing common, interagency, interoperable data systems across the sectors. As a result of this progress, states can learn from each other: in three short years, Pennsylvania made astounding progress in developing and implementing a statewide P-20 data system that was built in response to customer need. At the forum, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak shared their process, challenges and next steps.
 
“Our goal for the Pennsylvania Information Management System (PIMS) is a data collection system that will enable educators to measure and analyze what is working in our elementary and secondary schools so we can better prepare students for postsecondary education and the workforce,” said Secretary Zahorchak. “ARRA funding is providing states like Pennsylvania with the necessary resources they need to expand data-driven systems that improve student achievement.”
 
Acknowledging the need for state agencies to collaborate in order to achieve success similar to Pennsylvania’s, the three federal agencies (Education, HHS, and Labor) are encouraging their state-level counterparts to work together on these initiatives.
 
This Forum is one of many venues DQC is employing to encourage states to transform education into a knowledge-based enterprise, moving from collecting data for compliance to using data for improvement. In March of this year the DQC provided a 10 step action guide for states – “The Next Step: Using Longitudinal Data Systems to Improve Student Success” – to build capacity of education stakeholders to understand and use longitudinal data in effective decision making. The stimulus and other federal funding and guidance provide a strategic opportunity for states to implement these steps and align all of their data investments to ensure that data can be accessed, analyzed, used, and communicate to all stakeholders to promote continuous improvement.
 
The Administration and states have embraced the DQC’s 10 Essential Elements of a State Longitudinal Data System, released just four years ago. In 2008, six states had all ten elements, and 48 had five or more elements in place. States must commit to implementing these elements (as part of the 12 elements outlined in the America COMPETES Act) to obtain any ARRA funding through the U.S. Department of Education.
 
The Data Quality Campaign (http://www.dataqualitycampaign.org/) (DQC) is a national, collaborative effort to encourage and support state policymakers to improve the availability and use of high-quality education data to improve student achievement. The campaign provides tools and resources that help states implement and use longitudinal data systems, while providing a national forum for reducing duplication of effort and promoting greater coordination and consensus among the organizations focused on improving data quality, access and use. The Campaign has 14 managing partners and 55 endorsing partners. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is DQC´s founding funder; additional support has been provided by the Casey Family Programs, the Lumina Foundation for Education, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

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