With a strong push from organizations like the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), states are breaking down the barriers between the data silos and fortresses that have cutoff, jumbled and often confused the education information generated when students traverse their preschool-through-college educational pipeline.
They’re doing this largely through what are called Statewide Longitudinal Education Data Systems (SLEDS), which offer access to key “decision data” for educational leaders, students and parents. What this means for education reform is important. Higher education leaders can get better student learning information from Pre-K through high school. Parents can know how students from their local schools are performing in college. Universities can offer vital feedback about the college preparedness of students from a particular school or district.
These are just a few of the possibilities facilitated by SLEDS. But now that states are making huge strides in collecting and connecting key education data, it’s important to get that information into the hands of people who need it, says Aimee Rogstad Guidera, founding president and CEO of the DQC.
Guidera, who is leaving the organization after 12 years, was a recent guest on The Weightlist, Capture Higher Ed’s regular podcast about data, enrollment management, data science, machine learning and more. She was discussing SLEDS and other issues surrounding key education data with hosts Thom Golden, Capture’s senior vice president of data science, and Brad Weiner, the company’s director of data science.
As the data generated by SLEDS is collected, it often lands “somewhere on a website that nobody knows exists,” Guidera says. “You’ve got to know it exists and then go and look for it. Um, that’s not how we get information anywhere else in our lives.
“If I want to make a dinner reservation, there is a system in place where I can do that at my fingertips. I can find it … and it pops up automatically.”
Guidera says we need to start thinking about information for people who make decisions about education in the same way and “we need to start communicating differently,” she says.
Guidera sees a real opportunity in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind. The new education law acknowledges the importance of feedback information from postsecondary to K-12. It also requires every state not only to collect the information but also report it back on high school report cards. These are the reports every school is required to give under ESSA.
The nature of the information being reported is crucial, Guidera says. It’s not just how many kids enrolled in postsecondary out of a particular high school, but how many kids actually persisted and showed up for sophomore year. Or how many of those kids needed remediation.
“If I’m a principal, you better believe I want to know how many kids did I give an ‘A’ to in math who needed to go down the street to the community college and take remedial math,” she points out. “Because that’s the kind of information that says, Whoa, we’ve got a problem here. I’m giving kids A’s and B’s and they need to go and pay for another level of remedial education.”
On the college enrollment side — for admissions counselors using transcripts and other tools — the data “is like the Holy Grail of information” they want to give back to the K-12 system.
“Look, for so long, colleges have said, you’re not providing us with the people we need. They’re not ready for success in postsecondary,” Guidera says. “We finally have the data systems, and now the communication systems, required to say, we’re going to give the information directly back to the schools and the tax payers.”
Do you want to hear more from Thom and Brad’s conversation with Guidera about how lasting educational reform is happening today? Click below to join the conversation.
By Kevin Hyde, Senior Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed