California is on the verge of creating a cradle-to-career data system that could help policymakers identify effective educational policies while providing students and families with new tools to investigate college and career options.
With support from Governor Newsom, the Cradle-to-Career Data System Act in 2019 established an inclusive, transparent planning process that outlined how to build and implement such a system. To begin creating the data system, the governor’s 2021–22 budget proposes $18.8 million to improve existing data, develop the capacity and technology to link data across systems, and expand student-facing tools for college and career planning.
The completed data system may take four years to phase in, but it would allow the state to answer important questions, such as how prepared are high school students for college? What are the effects of financial aid on college completion and workforce success? How does early childhood education affect students in the long run?
California’s education data have long lagged behind those of other states. Most states at a minimum connect their K–12 and higher education data systems to help coordination across institutions, ensure equitable college access, and track progress on statewide educational goals—all areas in which California needs to improve.
California’s ambitious cradle-to-career data system is slated to include not only K–12 and higher education but also early childhood education and workforce data. It will also eventually incorporate information on student financial aid, teacher credentialing, and enrollment in social service programs.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of having the right data in a time of crisis. Students’ access to food, internet, and digital devices vary by race and family income, and initial research finds low-income students and English Learners are experiencing more learning loss than their peers.
An equitable recovery will depend on the state’s ability to follow the pandemic’s effects across educational transitions and identify policies that successfully combat learning loss and other challenges. Without an integrated data system, many of these efforts aren’t possible.
While the middle of a global pandemic may be a difficult time to commit long-term funding to a data system, making this investment now will help ensure that when the next crisis hits, policymakers, educational leaders, students, and families have the information they need to make the right decisions.