Updated December 1, 2022
As the new administration announces its priorities and Congress introduces its first pieces legislation this session, we’re noticing an important trend: a commitment to data. As an organization focused on education data policy and use, it’s no surprise that we’re encouraged by these developments. And we’ll be keeping a close eye as federal and state leaders work to implement these initiatives.
Following are some of the announcements we’ve seen so far:
- Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities (January 2021): Addresses elevating community engagement, figuring out to how assess inequalities in federal agency outcomes, and using these findings to inform the President’s budget. This executive order establishes an Equitable Data Working Group to ensure that federal datasets are disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, disability, income, veteran status, or other key demographic variables. Disaggregating data is key to understanding disparities and identifying solutions.
- Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers (January 2021): Released as part of the Biden administration’s larger COVID-19 response plan, this executive order on school reopening instructs the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to collect data to understand the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and educators. DQC President and CEO Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger took a deep dive into what this executive order means for data use through recovery and in the long term last week.
- Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 (January 2021): This executive order instructs federal leaders to make data relevant to high-consequence public health threats, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, publicly available and accessible. Public access to comprehensive data about how the pandemic impacted communities across the country will help education leaders make important decisions to support students and educators.
Memos and Reports
- Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking (January 2021): Emphasizes the Administration’s commitment to science, data and evidence free from political interference and creates the Task Force on Scientific Integrity. The memo notes, “Scientific and technological information, data, and evidence are central to the development and iterative improvement of sound policies, and to the delivery of equitable programs, across every area of government.”
- Operation Reverse the Loss (December 2020): The Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) addressed the actions that IES wants to take to address learning loss through research. Strategies in this memo include research to understand the crisis and accelerate discovery (including a Learning Pulse survey), respond to the crisis with new tools to help students catch up, and make sure the most high-need students don’t get left behind.
- Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building Year 2 Report (October 2022): Building on recommendations and progress from Year 1, the Advisory Committee made numerous proposals for data usage to enhance the evidence building ecosystem. One recommendation in particular advances a block grant for state, territorial, local, and tribal governments to promote cross program and agency data infrastructure modernization.
- Multiple federal agencies, including the Departments of Education and Labor, released new enterprise data strategies in response to the Evidence Act that, although technical in nature, illuminates how agencies see data fitting into their broader mission. The Department of Labor’s strategy (June 2022) puts goals of equity and job quality at the forefront, asserting that “data is truly one of the superpowers” that will allow them to accomplish these goals for American workers. Similarly, the Department of Education’s data strategy (December 2020) seeks to utilize “the full potential of data to improve education outcomes,” underscoring that data is essential for academic excellence and equity.
- Learning Recovery Act of 2021 (January 2021): If passed, this legislation would provide funding to build out summer school, extend school days, or extend schools programs, and would direct IES to conduct research on learning loss. The grant program established by this legislation would require local education agencies to use funding to measure learning loss, and allow the use of some funding to assess learning and provide teachers with professional development on using these assessments to personalize learning.
- New Essential Education Discoveries (NEED) Act (January 2022): Representatives Bonamici and Fitzpatrick’s proposed legislation would not only promote education research and data usage, but it would also invest $500 million in the current Stateiwde Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) Grant Program and expand it to focus on integrating data across education, workforce, and human service agencies. Additionally, if passed, the NEED Act would make other grantees eligible beyond just state education agencies, including P-20W councils and other statewide data governing bodies.
- College Transparency Act (CTA): Included as part of the proposed COMPETES Act, CTA prioritizes postsecondary data, creating a national reporting system for postsecondary outcomes, enrollment, affordability, and earnings, among others. With data from postsecondary institutions disaggregated by various demographics, including race, ethnicity, gender, age, military status, students will be better able to see how individual institutions will serve them, making informed decisions guided by outcomes data such as graduation rates, median salary, loan debt, employment rate, and more.
- National Secure Data Service (NSDS): Passage of a NSDS demonstration project in the CHIPS Act (August 2022) promotes research and evidence-building across all agencies by consolidating and enhancing the data infrastructure nationwide. For example, NSDS will create a secure way to share federal data for research, analysis, and policymaking. Moreover, by aligning the NSDS with the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics and National Science Foundation, strong data privacy and security measures can be leveraged across all government agencies.
- Digital Equity Act (November 2021): The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes digital equity grants that will invest $45 billion in infrastructure, technology, and training to expand broadband access and digital literacy. To achieve these goals, however, states must have data that enables them to identify need, measure progress, and evaluate the success of closing digital gaps. This commitment to digital equity requires continued investment in SLDSs, indicating that integration with state digital equity plans can ensure both policymakers and individuals have the information they need to make informed decisions.
Federal Guidance and Technical Assistance
- Guidance on federal relief funds (January 2022): Specific guidance on data usage by the Treasury Department expressly denotes data infrastructure modernization and increased capacity as permitted uses of federal relief funds, giving states and localities the support they need to invest in data systems for equitable recovery. Federal funding and its connection to education data was discussed at length in a DQC webinar, which can be found here.
- White House Year of Evidence in Action (April 2022): The Year of Evidence in Action is driven by the administration’s commitment to scientific integrity and equity as a way of evaluating current policies and formulating new ones to ensure they are serving the entire American public. For example, as part of the Year of Evidence in Action, the Department of Education is specifically using evidence to promote success for all students through new evaluation programs, including one focused on unfinished learning in math, all of which use data to ascertain best practices through the educational journey.
Requests for Information (RFIs)
- Equitable Data Engagement and Accountability (September 2022): The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy published an RFI focused on advancing equity and enhancing collaboration between levels of government, civil society, and the research community through the usage of equitable data. Investments in SLDSs that link across agencies can help various actors understand current inequities in education and workforce sectors and programs, enabling policymakers to direct resources to address them.
- Design and Implementation Features for Open Data Services (June 2022): This Department of Labor (DOL) request seeks to further advance and support the agency’s open data efforts, expanding public access while also prioritizing privacy, security, and governance endeavors. DOL seeks comments on data documentation, quality, and utility measures, among others, that will benefit the public. Increased public access to data will not only aid research efforts, but it will also provide the public with valuable information in educational and workforce decisions.