Gaps in Perspective: Who Should Be Responsible for Tracking Student Progress Across Education Institutions?

November 2016

Conventional wisdom suggests that local educators tend to be wary of efforts by the state to gather more information from their institutions, due to the burdens that such requests often entail. But California’s current education landscape, with its shift from state to local control of funding and accountability in the K-12 system, its massive educational experiments underway, and its highly localized and autonomous higher education systems, may represent a departure from the conventional. The local educators we interviewed as part of a research project expressed the need for—and a readiness to participate in—a state-level data system to gather and track information about student progress in and across educational institutions. The state officials we spoke with, on the other hand, were not convinced that gathering and sharing this information should be a top priority for the state and they were doubtful that such a system would provide enough benefits to justify its implementation costs.

These observations are drawn from conversations with education leaders at the local and regional levels, as well as with state-level policymakers, undertaken as part of a three-year project by the Education Insights Center (EdInsights) to understand barriers to increasing postsecondary attainment. The project’s ultimate goal is to identify opportunities to improve policies in support of student progress throughout the education pipeline—from K-12 schools, into and through community colleges and universities, and into the workforce. This brief is the first in a series that will explore California’s approach to tracking, sharing, and using longitudinal data about student progress throughout the state’s education systems.

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