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COVID-19 Highlights the Need for Statewide Student Data

Jacob Jackson May 15, 2020
photo - Female Student Using Laptop and Studying at Home

The pandemic makes it clearer than ever that California would benefit from a data system that links information across educational institutions. Without it, California policymakers will continue to lack important information—including insights into the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our students and educational institutions.

Better data would help determine who is most affected by the pandemic, where to direct support, and how to prepare for future crises. For example, is the pandemic affecting key educational transitions of some students more than others? Some regions more than others? Where should the state best direct its resources to ensure students keep moving through the educational pipeline? Right now, these questions cannot be fully answered.

The governor’s office remains supportive of building a statewide data system, and the state’s Cradle to Career Workgroup is still aiming to deliver a proposal to the legislature by the end of 2020.  At its most recent meeting, the workgroup endorsed creating a multifaceted system, including data tools for the general public and researchers, as well as ways for practitioners, students, and families to link data regarding transitions to and between colleges.

The workgroup also endorsed including early childhood data, to focus on early determinants of educational success and align with the governor’s focus on early childhood care. Over the summer and fall, the workgroup will decide on proposals that define the scope of the system, ensure privacy and security, and govern access.

Balancing the state’s need for connected data with the current economic downturn may be difficult. However, forgoing all of the recent progress could indefinitely stall this important effort, not only hampering the flow of critical information but also leaving the state flying blind during the next crisis.

PPIC will continue to participate in an advisory capacity for the Cradle to Career Workgroup and will also convene the California Education Data Collaborative to aid and inform the state in creating a useful data system that helps students and provides valuable direction for the state—during good times and bad.

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