California Needs a Better Education Data System But Who Will Manage It?

Topics: Data Systems, Degree Attainment, Governance, Public Agenda, State Coordination

This commentary was published by EdSource on March 25, 2019.

Governor Newsom has taken a strong step to modernize public education by proposing funding for a longitudinal data system that connects student information from cradle to career.

Currently, without such a system in place, the state has limited ability to diagnose its challenges in education, invest wisely in solutions and then assess the impact of those investments. Further, the public lacks a mechanism to understand how students can equitably access quality postsecondary opportunities statewide.

Fortunately, many of our elected leaders now agree that this transparency will only come from a comprehensive data system, ideally one spanning preschool to workforce. Yet, the policy conversation often falls short on who will oversee and manage that system.

Adding another component to strengthen California’s multibillion-dollar public education operation with data, while necessary, should be done only with clear direction on leadership and oversight. The state must house the data system in an independent agency to ensure that it successfully serves its intended purpose. This entity must have enough autonomy to prioritize the needs of students, workers and the state’s economy across sectors rather than in fragments. California already spends too much on inefficient, siloed initiatives without clear goals for improving outcomes for students and the state. The new data system must not become another casualty.

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