Federal Advocacy, Governance, P-20W Data

Federal SLDS Grants Support Robust State Data Ecosystems

Federal SLDS Grants Support Robust State Data Ecosystems

Since it was established, the Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) grant program has enabled states to build data systems that collect data across multiple agencies. In the most recent round, the Institute of Education Sciences awarded 28 multi-year SLDS grants to states in fiscal year 2023—out of 34 applications. Across eight rounds of SLDS grant funding, 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia have received at least one SLDS grant. 

Although states can and do allocate state funds to build robust SLDSs, they need federal support. However, the FY 2024 budget includes a $10 million rescission to the SLDS grant program and flawed proposed language for further cuts in the President’s FY 2025 budget. If the cuts in FY 2024 are combined with additional cuts in FY 2025, the US Department of Education could struggle to meet its commitments to the states awarded grants in 2023. Additionally, the department could struggle to provide its current level of technical assistance and support to states on permissible ways to leverage existing funds and securely share data without violating privacy laws.

A few examples of leading states that have used SLDS grant funds to create impactful resources include: 

  • Alabama recently implemented cross-agency data governance legislation aimed at enhancing and tracking postsecondary and workforce outcomes in the state. Parallel efforts led to the establishment—with federal SLDS grant and state funds—of the Alabama Terminal on Linking and Analyzing Statistics (ATLAS), an integrated workforce and education data analysis tool that allows state agencies to connect data to conduct research. The state also recently codified the Alabama Committee on Credentialing and Career Pathways, emphasizing the importance of publicly available, transparent information on credentials and competency data. 
  • Connecticut maintains its P20 WIN system with federal SLDS and Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) grants as well as state funds. The state system for interagency data sharing has expanded to include 15 total agencies, including health and human services, corrections and juvenile justice, and the workforce. A recent P20 WIN analysis mapped data on disconnected and at-risk youth in Connecticut to identify the population of students who are not connected with existing state systems. P20 WIN has also produced analyses of college and career readiness, postsecondary and wage outcomes for Connecticut high school graduates, and outcomes for special education students.
  • Maine uses federal SLDS grant funds to make its education data—specifically its student and staff data—more actionable. The state is in the process of providing districts and schools with more timely value-added data and better data visualizations to increase support for student learning and growth and bolster data-informed decisions. 
  • Washington uses a combination of federal SLDS grant and state funds to operate its Education Research and Data Center (ERDC), which develops longitudinal information spanning the P–20W system in order to facilitate analyses, provide meaningful reports, collaborate on education research, and share data. ERDC focuses on how people transition from one sector to the next and answers cross-sector questions. Of late, ERDC has been working with Washington’s Student Achievement Center (WSAC) to share data that will enable the state to proactively inform students from low-income backgrounds in the 10th grade that they qualify for free college tuition. Together, WSAC and ERDC are also using data to help college students who are struggling financially to connect with public benefits for which they are eligible so they may continue their studies. 
  • West Virginia’s P–20 statewide longitudinal data system was created using federal SLDS grant funding. Its most recent iteration combines data from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, West Virginia Department of Education, Workforce West Virginia, and the West Virginia Community and Technical College System to provide the public with insights into the education and workforce outcomes of West Virginians. The system maintains tools that provide information on the workforce outcomes of graduates from each of the state’s public colleges and universities as well as data on the aspirations of graduating high school seniors and postsecondary success rates. 
  • Wisconsin has used its most recent federal SLDS grant funding to improve the Wisconsin Information System for Education (WISE) in a way that enhances the parent experience during the school choice process, better protects data privacy and security, increases the state’s research and evaluation efforts, and improves its ability to make data- and evidence-based decisions. 

SLDS grant funds have enabled states to make significant changes to their state data systems over the years and, as these examples show, have provided real impact for the data ecosystem in states across the country. Rather than cuts, federal leaders are best positioned to increase investments in the SLDS grant program. States are beginning to plan for the next evolution of state data systems and systems that will require updates to technology; stronger data linkages between early learning, elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education, workforce, health, and other data systems; and increased human capacity to use and manage the information effectively and securely. The SLDS grant program should be robust enough to support these state efforts.