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California's Maze of Student Information: Education Data Systems Leave Critical Questions Unanswered

August 2017

California collects expansive sets of data about students in its public K-12 and higher education systems— data that, collectively, have great potential to meet the information needs of state policymakers, local educators, and other stakeholders. But the data are collected and maintained in systems that are not connected, were designed for different purposes, are subject to different regulations, and often use different data definitions. As a result of these disconnects, important information about student progress is often impossible to access, share, and use—whether at the state, regional, or local level. While there may be a few benefits to the current structure, they are outweighed by major disadvantages, including inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. A significant weakness is that California’s current approach leaves the state and its institutions unable to answer important questions about student progress and outcomes. At least six efforts in recent years have failed to create a new entity that can oversee data collection and use in California. This brief seeks to make clear the missed opportunities the state has had with regard to understanding its investments in public education.

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This policy brief is the second in a series, California Education Policy, Student Data, and the Quest to Improve Student Progress. The series examines California's approach to gathering and sharing longitudinal data about students' progress through the state's education systems.

Brief 1 - Gaps in Perspective: Who Should Be Responsible for Tracking Student Progress Across Systems?

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Authors: Colleen Moore, Kathy Reeves Bracco, and Thad Nodine

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