Governor Newsom’s recently proposed budget includes $10 million in one-time funding for the planning, creation, and implementation of a statewide longitudinal data system—including early childhood education, K–12, higher education, the workforce, and health and human services. As we wrote in a recent PPIC report, this idea holds a lot of promise. An integrated data system could allow for improved feedback for educational institutions, more efficient use of public funds, and better evaluation and coordination for the state. The idea also has support in the state senate, where Senators Glazer and Allen proposed a similar system (SB 2) last December.
Each public education system—K–12, the community colleges, California State University, and the University of California—already recognizes the importance of data. They all collect, store, and analyze data on students within their respective systems to improve instruction and outcomes. However, few connections are ever made between educational sectors. Even though a high school senior may graduate from a K–12 school, attend a community college, and then transfer to a UC, data isn’t shared across those systems in any systematic way. So each system has no idea if students are successful in the next stage of their academic career. California is one of the few states that does not follow students across sectors.
The governor’s budget summary also suggests that the data system could be used to improve K–12 measures of career and college readiness. Current measures are based on high school test scores and high school course-taking. But connecting K–12 data to higher education and employment data could lead to more meaningful measures of whether students are able to take and succeed in college-level courses, or whether they work in a job with a living wage.
With the Newsom administration’s support, California may be closer than ever to establishing a data system that can answer key questions about how students move along the educational pipeline. Creation and implementation will involve security, privacy, and governance challenges, but California has 42 other states that can serve as models. This is a much-needed first step in helping the state develop effective policy solutions that will improve students’ progress through school and into the workforce.