Longitudinal Data Add to High School Improvement

Since 2005, the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has awarded more than $400 million in discretionary grants to 41 states and the District of Columbia to help state education agencies design, develop, and implement state longitudinal data systems (SLDSs). The goal of SLDS—helping states, districts, schools, and teachers make data-driven decisions to improve learning and close achievement gaps—is a significant departure from the long-standing goal of using data to monitor funding and program compliance. The new goal requires a different approach to building data systems.

Many of the requirements under SLDS speak directly to high school issues. For example, under the grant competition, states are required to link high school data with K-8 and postsecondary and workforce data. States are also expected to collect and share data on college readiness (e.g., ACT, SAT, AP), National Governors Association (NGA) graduation rates, and course-taking and completion. These data allow educators, parents, policymakers, and researchers to examine a range of secondary education issues including: remedial course-taking in college, ACT/SAT scores, and advanced mathematics and science high school course-taking disaggregated by student, school, and district characteristics.

So, how are states doing on their SLDSs? IES provides a very nice summary of the progress that each of their 42 grantees have made developing SLDS on their Web site.

With respect to high school specific issues, IES reports that:

  • 14 (33%) of their grantees have national college readiness measures (ACT, SAT, AP);
  • 11 (26%) have course enrollment and completion data; and
  • 15 (36%) include the NGA graduation rate.

Each of these data sources is critical for examining high school readiness, college and career readiness, high school improvement efforts, and middle, secondary, and postsecondary policies. Ideally, these new grants will provide states the additional resources they need to create data systems that provide the information necessary to make informed decisions that will better prepare adolescents for adulthood.

To support data use for reform, IES has created a new research topic under its Education Research Grants Program—Analysis of Longitudinal Data to Support State and Local Education Reform.


Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

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