States have done a tremendous amount of work over the last 10 years to build critical data systems and use them to inform policy and practice, all with the goal of improving teaching and learning for students. Thanks to state and federal investments in data infrastructure and smart policies, every state now has the ability to produce a richer and more useful picture of student learning than ever before.
10 Essential Elements of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems
In 2005 DQC identified the 10 Essential Elements of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, and began measuring states’ progress toward implementing them. The 10 Essential Elements provided a roadmap for states as they built systems to collect, store, and use longitudinal data to improve student achievement. In 2007 the federal America COMPETES Act codified 12 “Required Elements of a P–16 Education Data System,” which include DQC’s 10 Essential Elements. In 2009 the federal American Recovery & Reinvestment Act required states, as a condition of receiving State Fiscal Stabilization Funds, to commit to building a data system consisting of these elements.
By 2011, most states had most of the 10 Essential Elements in place.
- A unique student identifier. A single, unduplicated number assigned to an individual student that remains with that student from kindergarten through high school that connects student data across key databases across years.
- Student-level enrollment, demographic, and program participation information including information such as attendance, special education status, gifted and talented education status, career and technical education participation, or free and reduced-priced lunch status.
- The ability to match individual students’ test records from year to year to measure academic growth and the ability to disaggregate the results by individual test item and objective.
- Information on untested students and the reasons why they were not tested.
- A teacher identifier system with the ability to match teachers to students by classroom and subject.
- Student-level transcript data, including information on courses completed and grades earned from middle and high school.
- Student-level college readiness test scores such as scores on SAT, SAT II, ACT, Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams.
- Student-level graduation and dropout data.
- The ability to match student records between the P–12 and postsecondary systems.
- A state data audit system assessing data quality, validity, and reliability.
10 State Actions to Ensure Effective Data Use
DQC released its 10 State Actions to Ensure Effective Data Use in 2009. They called for states to move from collecting data only for compliance and accountability purposes to using data to answer critical policy questions, inform continuous improvement, and ultimately support students on their paths to success. In 2014, the final year DQC surveyed states on their progress toward the 10 State Actions, three states had implemented all of them: Arkansas, Delaware, and Kentucky.
- Link state K–12 data systems with early learning, postsecondary, workforce, and other critical state agency data systems.
- Create stable, sustained support for longitudinal data systems.
- Develop governance structures to guide data collection and use.
- Build state data repositories.
- Provide timely, role-based access to data.
- Create progress reports with student-level data for educators, students, and parents.
- Create reports with longitudinal statistics to guide system-level change.
- Develop a purposeful research agenda.
- Implement policies and promote practices to build educators’ capacity to use data.
- Promote strategies to raise awareness of available data.
- Read the report creating the 10 Essential Elements of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems.
- Learn how the America COMPETES Act codified the elements: Alignment Between DQC’s 10 Essential Elements and the America COMPETES Act’s 12 Elements.
- Read the report creating the 10 State Actions to Ensure Effective Data Use.
- Read DQC’s Data for Action 2014 for key findings from our last annual survey on the 10 Actions, including detailed state-by-state status on the 10 Actions and examples from leading states.
Four Policy Priorities to Make Data Work for Students
After years of progress and innovation in building data systems, states are now poised to tackle the next generation of recommendations, DQC’s Four Policy Priorities to Make Data Work for Students. This set of recommendations builds on the foundation of DQC’s 10 Essential Elements and 10 State Actions, evolving further to reflect a changing focus at DQC—and in states and classrooms—from systems to people.