Federal Advocacy, P-20W Data

State Data Systems Are Key to Making Federal Budget Priorities a Reality

State Data Systems Are Key to Making Federal Budget Priorities a Reality

The President’s fiscal year (FY) 2023 budget request—currently being considered by Congressional appropriations committees—outlines an ambitious policy agenda that will require cross-sector collaboration to address new and persistent challenges faced by learners, workers, and communities. The US Department of Education’s (USED) proposed budget, for example, lays out a vision for programs that would help students navigate career pathways, integrate social service sector supports into schools, and promote student completion and retention in institutions of higher education to support improved labor market outcomes. This blog post is the first in a two-part series on how state data systems are key to making federal budget priorities a reality.  

As a result of many years of work and significant financial investments, states have expanded the information they can collect and report through their longitudinal data systems. Often, these systems have been built primarily for compliance reporting—but leading states can also leverage their data systems to help policymakers and researchers answer important policy and performance questions, such as understanding outcomes for different types of credentials and evaluating the types of interventions that work best to support student achievement. However, many obstacles—including insufficiently timely and granular data—get in the way of states building the kind of P–20W data system that can solve problems for individuals, families, and communities.  

If the administration succeeds in advancing these worthwhile priorities, it should ensure the priorities are accompanied by new investments in state integrated data systems. These programs are more likely to effectively support learners and workers, scale in a data- and evidence-based manner, and produce positive impacts for communities if they are supported by robust and nimble P–20W data systems. 

Currently, states may be able to link data across two or more systems, but very few—16 by DQC’s last count—can link across early education, K–12, postsecondary, and workforce to make up a P–20W data system. Even when they can link data across sectors, the questions states are able to answer with those linkages are often limited. For example, according to the most recent state longitudinal data system (SLDS) survey from USED and the most recent Strong Foundations data from the State Higher Education Executive Officers’ Association (SHEEO): 

  • More than 75 percent of states can link their postsecondary and workforce data systems. 
    • States that have this link can typically answer questions about employment status, average wages, and employment sectors for students who graduate from public, in-state institutions.  
    • States are less likely to have information about students who attended private or out-of-state institutions or went on to work for the federal government or in a different state. Very few have information about hours worked, full- or part-time status, or individuals’ specific occupations within an employment sector or its relationship to someone’s program of study. 
  • More than half of states can link their early childhood and K–12 data systems. A similar percentage (though not necessarily the same states) can link their K–12 and postsecondary data systems. 
    • States that can link early childhood to K–12 data can answer questions about public prekindergarten programs, but it is less likely that they have information about subsidized child care or Head Start programs. Typically, data often flows only from early childhood to K–12 systems and rarely moves the other way or further in the pipeline.  
    • States that can link K–12 and postsecondary data can typically answer questions about admissions and enrollment in public, in-state institutions. They are less likely to be able to do so for private or out-of-state institutions. Additionally, states are less likely to have information about graduates’ persistence, credential completion, or longer-term outcomes (e.g., earnings).  
  • Less than one-third of states can link their K–12 and workforce data systems. States that have this link can typically answer questions about the employment status of recent graduates and may be able to provide information on sectors and average wages. However, this data is usually limited to individuals still employed within the state where they attended school and rarely includes information about apprenticeships or other forms of postsecondary education and training.  

Right now, people are experiencing a lot of uncertainty, whether they are planning for what comes next after their education, unemployed and looking for new job opportunities, or navigating a complex web of social services in order to support the needs of their family. When robust and responsive to community needs, state data systems are a critical tool for providing more clarity about these important decisions. However, to meet the demands of the moment and enable current policy priorities, leaders must do more to ensure that these systems evolve to support these needs. Part II of this blog series will further unpack how the landscape of P–20W data systems described above could impact the implementation of programs in the federal budget.