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Making Progress on Connecting Student Data across California

Jacob Jackson January 28, 2020
Diverse students walking and talking using mobile devices in university.

California students may fall through cracks in the state’s public education system because K–12 data and college data are not connected. For example, the state and its public universities are currently unaware of students who do not apply to UC or CSU despite being eligible, making it impossible to encourage these students to apply. Connecting education data can help California recognize and improve key transitions in student progress.

The current data system is fragmented across institutions, leaving California as one of eight states without a modernized approach to tracking its educational pipeline. By passing the 2019 California Cradle-to-Career Data System Act, the state is taking action toward linking education data across its many sectors.

As a first step, California has appointed a workgroup that will recommend a framework to the legislature and the Department of Finance within a year. This workgroup will determine relevant data elements to include—variables such as graduation, eligibility, and enrollment—along with when and how to combine data, where to store results, and who governs access to data.

So far the process has been inclusive and transparent, with representatives from all sectors of education, advocacy groups, researchers, technology experts, lawyers, and others stepping forward to serve on committees and advisory groups. Many member organizations of the California Education Data Collaborative, an organization convened by PPIC, are serving in advisory groups. Advisory group meetings are open to the public, and people can find information, meeting materials, and notes on the California Data System website. Public comments are encouraged at all meetings and on the website.

On January 16, PPIC attended its first meeting with the Policy and Analytics Advisory Group, where we discussed use cases around research and accountability, such as analyzing how financial aid offers to high school students impact college outcomes. The advisory group also agreed on a critical first step for the state: evaluation and analysis of student pathways from school to work. Advice from this advisory group and others will help the state’s workgroup make recommendations on January 30 to determine the scope and first phase of the data system.

PPIC will continue to participate in the advisory group and monitor the monthly workgroup meetings; notes and materials will be posted at California Data System, and we will update progress on this blog.

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