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Building a Robust State Data System

**Moore, C., Bracco, K. R., & Nodine, T. (2017). California's maze of student information: Education data systems leave critical questions unanswered (Policy brief). Available at Education Insights Center website:

This report describes, in detail, the data collection systems of the California Department of Education and the state’s three higher education systems (California Community Colleges, California State University, and the University of California) as well as various data-sharing efforts among colleges, school districts, and state agencies. It also discusses various failed attempts to set up a comprehensive education data system for California and shares what key stakeholders think about the current situation. The brief identifies some potential advantages to the existing decentralized system: creating space for innovation in data-sharing practices, maintaining the ability for each agency to control and contextualize its own data, and potentially ensuring greater privacy protection. However, the authors argue that these are outweighed by its many disadvantages, such as a focus on using data for compliance rather than growth, the difficulties of tracking student progress through educational institutions, and duplication of effort and inefficiencies across the system.

Koppich, J., White, E., Kim, S., Lauck, M., Bookman, N., & Venezia, A. (2019). Developing a comprehensive data system to further continuous improvement in California. Available at Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) website:

This brief reports on a February 2019 Policy Analysis for California Education conference session that brought together experts to discuss a set of essential questions California must consider as it develops a new coordinated data system: (1) What purposes should the new data system serve? (2) How should the new system be governed? (3) Who should have access? The authors start by explaining why a state longitudinal data system (SLDS) is necessary in California and by identifying three categories of barriers to establishing an SLDS—technical, bureaucratic, and political. They then put forth three examples of districts coming together to build data warehouses to illustrate that the state can learn much from regional and network data systems already in place in California. The first example is the multi-sector data warehouse developed for the Long Beach Unified School District, the community colleges, California State University Long Beach, and the city of Long Beach. The second example is the Silicon Valley Regional Data Trust, which is led by the Santa Clara County Office of Education in partnership with the San Mateo and Santa Cruz county offices of education, health and human service agencies, and the University of California at Santa Cruz to build a regional cross-agency data system for education improvement. The third example is that of the CORE Data Collaborative and its efforts to provide educators across the state of California a vision of school progress through collaborative data use. The brief ends with the caution that the state must carefully consider a range of issues, including the purpose of the system, who will have access to the data, how the system will be governed, and where it will be housed.

**Moore, C., & Bracco, K. R. (2018). A hunger for information: California's options to meet its statewide education data needs (Policy brief). Available at Education Insights Center website:

This report summarizes the issues with California not having an SLDS, describes potential lessons from the SLDSs of other states, and sets forth policy criteria to consider when considering creating an SLDS for California. The authors discuss options for such a system, such as whether it should be centralized or federated; whether data governance is managed by a state agency, a joint powers authority or other coordinating body, or a third party; and how much different systems might cost. Drawing from the other state case studies, the brief concludes with a set of recommendations, including the creation of a centralized SLDS managed by a state agency or office without waiting to settle the much-debated question of whether California needs a coordinating body across its three higher education systems. Finally, it lays out steps for implementation, starting with legislative approval for the new office or agency that would be responsible for creating and maintaining the SLDS.

Steenhausen, P., & Pacella, J. K. (2019). The 2019–20 budget: Creating an integrated education data system. Available at Legislative Analyst’s Office website:

Unlike most states, California has no centralized agency or federated system for collecting and sharing education data. In 2008, the legislature authorized two working groups to propose the technical design and proper governance of an integrated education data system. This proposal was approved by the legislature but vetoed in 2012 by then-Governor Brown. Governor Newsom has proposed the formation of a new working group to come up with new recommendations. This report expresses concerns that the governor’s proposed approach minimizes the role of the state legislature in the planning and design of the system, does not involve the California Department of Technology at all, and might end up simply duplicating the work already done in the past and then suggests that the legislature move forward with the findings of the previous working group rather than starting over.

**Edley, C., Jr., & Kimner, H. (2018). Education equity in California: A review of Getting Down to Facts II findings. (pp. 3–7, 24–28). Available at Getting Down to Facts II website: /sites/default/files/2018-09/GDTFII_Equity%20Review.pdf

For the purpose of this meeting, we recommend reading several excerpts from the Getting Down to Facts II (GDTF) synthesis on equity. First, the introduction (pages 6-7) asserts that California still has a long way to go when it comes to ensuring an equitable education for all students, and that recent reforms rely on hopes and intentions more than assessments of actual change. Second, we recommend the summary of equity-related findings from the collection of GDTF reports (pages 3-6). Last, in the section “Looking Ahead for Equity,” (pages 24-28) the authors share their thoughts about how California can move forward. In this section, they point to scientific research that highlights the neurological and human development implications of a lack of equity and that suggests our political history of addressing these issues has been misguided. In order to ascertain whether the state’s education system has in fact moved in the right direction, accurate data and equity indicators are essential. This section concludes by outlining ways in which California’s current education data is limited, not useful, or flawed for the purposes of achieving greater equity.

Nellum, C. J., & Voight, M. (2019). Data for the people: Prioritizing equity in California’s state longitudinal data system. The Education Trust–West. Available at /edtrustmain/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2017/11/01004510/Data-for-the-People-Brief-May-2019-Ed-Trust-West-PDF.pdf

This brief outlines guiding principles for ensuring racial and socioeconomic equity as the state considers plans for a longitudinal data system. The guidelines include the importance of consulting students and families of color to inform decisions about the design of the data system. Additionally, the new system should include and be able to disaggregate data from all student populations—especially those that often get forgotten, such as those in alternative education or the juvenile justice system. The state’s data system should be held to the highest privacy standards, while also producing reports and tools that are accessible to the public. Last, the new data system needs to actually inform change to improve the lives of students and families of color. The brief ends with a summary of state proposals being considered now and The Education Trust–West’s assessment of how well they live up to these guidelines.

**This document is considered a priority reading.