Future of California’s Student Data System in Question after State Fails to Win Key Grant

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OAKLAND, CA (May 26, 2010) Last Friday, California learned that it lost yet another critical opportunity for federal funds to support education reform— this time $20 million for data systems.  According to the California Department of Education, securing a grant from the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) would have supported the state’s effort to further develop and implement a longitudinal system linking data across time and databases, from early childhood into career, including matching teachers to students while protecting student privacy and confidentiality.

Funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, the stimulus package included $250 million for competitive grants to support Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS).  In 2006, California received $3.3 million from this grant program to fund the development of CALPADS, and $6 million in 2009 to fund the development of CALTIDES.

However, this year, it was not one of the 20 states to win an SLDS grant.

“California losing this grant signals the need to rethink our strategy around data systems that support student achievement,” stated Arun Ramanathan, executive director of The Education Trust—West, a leading policy, research and advocacy organization that works to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement pre-kindergarten through college for students of color and students in poverty.  “Our existing state data system, CALPADs, has had performance issues that have made it difficult – if not impossible—for districts to submit data to the system.  It is possible that the U.S. Department of Education did not want to continue expanding a system that is not currently working.  With or without funding, the state must now find a way to make this critical system work.”

Failure to competitively secure a new grant places the future of our longitudinal student data system in jeopardy as California grapples with a $19.1 billion dollar state budget shortfall and consecutive years of devastating cuts to education.  California was relying on winning a 2010 grant to fund a number of the different initiatives that formed the backbone of the state’s education reform efforts in the area of data systems.

These initiatives included:

  • Expanding existing systems to include preschool students, college and career indicators, and a renovation of the California State University (CSU) data system that would link it to K-12;
  • Building a high-quality P-20 Longitudinal Data Warehouse in order to link and report education data from preschool through postsecondary;
  • Producing high-quality research and training on data use that impacts student achievement; and
  • Improving college and workforce readiness tracking.

Many local school districts around the state have tremendous data systems in place that provide timely, relevant information while informing instruction in compelling and innovative ways.  “California must foster a statewide ‘culture of data’ by drawing upon these promising local practices to strengthen our statewide system while simultaneously making data meaningful for educators and policymakers alike,” said Ramanathan.

The Education Trust—West calls on California to be bolder and more innovative in its thinking about what state data systems are and should be able to do.  If CALPADS and CALTIDES remain merely mechanisms for compliance and do not meet the data needs of districts, the quality of the data and its usefulness to the people who use it will forever be compromised.  California can, and must, do better than compliance as addressing the achievement gaps that separate students of color and children in poverty from their peers depends on it.

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About The Education Trust—West

The Education Trust—West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, kindergarten through college, and to forever close the achievement gaps separating low-income students and students of color from other youth. Our basic tenet is this— All children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels. 

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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.