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Home News California needs a better education data system, but who can do it?

California needs a better education data system, but who can do it?

CREDIT: Alison Yin / EdSource

University of California at Berkeley students in Doe Library on campus in Berkeley, California, Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

Governor Newsom has taken a strong step towards modernizing public education by proposing the funding of a longitudinal data system linking student information from cradle to careers.

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Ria Sengupta Bhatt

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Currently, without such a system, the state is limited in its ability to diagnose its educational challenges, meaningfully invest in solutions and assess the impact of these investments. In addition, the public lacks a mechanism to understand how students have equal access to high-quality post-secondary opportunities.

Fortunately, many of our elected executives now agree that this transparency will only come from a comprehensive data system, ideally a preschool age for the workforce. However, policy discussions often lack the question of who will oversee and manage this system.

However, the addition of another component to strengthening public education in California, with billions of dollars in funding and data, should only be clear in terms of leadership and oversight. The state must house the data system in an independent agency to ensure that it successfully performs its intended purpose. This unit must have sufficient autonomy to prioritize the needs of students, workers, and the state economy by sector, not shards. California is already spending too much on inefficient, subdued initiatives, with no clear goals to improve outcomes for students and the state. The new data system must not become another victim.

As California leaders seek to revise the state's approach to education data, a political discussion is underway that involves an impartial body responsible for coordinating and planning the three areas of public higher education in California can improve: community colleges, CSU and UC. In fact, Governor Newsom suggested during his campaign to create such a coordinating body.

These ideas – the need for a data system and a coordinating body for higher education – should not be treated as parallel proposals as they overlap and intensify very much. California is one of only two states without an institution that can formulate and coordinate a public agenda for higher education, as well as one of only a handful of states without a nationwide longitudinal data system. How often is an organization or initiative criticized because "the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing?" Coordination and transparency are inextricably linked, and it is almost impossible to achieve one without the other.

In my opinion, a comprehensive education data system would be best in Gov. Newsom, as state public colleges and universities form the most interconnected sector along the education-employment pipeline. Higher education results often reflect readiness during the K-12 and predict the success of the workforce. Higher education is also the most pervasive point in the pipeline as students go in and out and get busy at the same time. Today, more than ever, Californians are arguing over higher education and the workforce to stay afloat in the face of the state's skyrocketing living costs.

The years since the publication of the California Master's Plan for Higher Education in 1960 have been defined by volatile economic changes and the burgeoning enrollment of students, pushing the California higher education system beyond its capacity. California is now facing critical challenges in higher education, including rising costs and unfair student completion rates. As a result, the college is more expensive and less accessible to millions of Californians.

Instead of shedding light on how we got here, several existing sub-data systems leave us in the dark – in a vacuum of inefficiency and inefficiency. As each public education sector determines the outcomes of its students, it is almost impossible to gain a coordinated understanding of students' achievements and challenges as they move from pre-school to K-12, higher education, and the workforce. An independent and coordinated nationwide school system could reduce this challenge.

Apart from managing the new data system, a well-built coordinating unit, based on what we have learned from previous iterations, such as the California Postsecondary Education Commission, which was defused in 2011, would allow the state to be nimble in all high-school segments, which encourages the students to promote independent and efficient and equal.

Here is an example. Armed with the right data, a coordinating institution for higher education could fully address the capacity of colleges at colleges, CSU and UC. It could help California convey the promise that it made almost 60 years ago to every high school graduate in California – a guaranteed place in the state university system.

It's time for public education in California to pick up on its core values ​​and work more like a system than a collection of parts. The solution is a coordinated approach to collecting, analyzing and responding to students' diverse experiences using data.

With world-class institutions training the workforce to drive its $ 2.7 trillion innovation economy, California is currently well positioned to shift its education from opaque and subdued to transparent and coordinated.


Ria Sengupta Bhatt is Interim Executive Director of California competes: Higher education for a strong economy.

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