Fixing California’s big education data gap

Fixing California’s big education data gap

(Calif.) Legislation aimed at closing a big gap in California’s educational data system won passage last week from a key committee, opening the way for a new system backers hope will be ready by 2022.

SB 2 by state Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, would establish a new oversight committee that would guide the development of a single database that would track students—their performance and behavior—from early learning to college and entry into the work force.

“California does not have a statewide data system that tracks student progress through P-12 and higher education into the workforce,” said Glazer in a statement. “As a result, educators and policymakers cannot answer critical questions about student progress, which limits their ability to make evidence based changes to support better and more equitable opportunities for students.”

State and local officials have struggled for decades with the existing data collection tool, California Longitudinal Pupil Assessment and Data System, or CalPADS.

The system has been plagued over the years by a variety of software bugs and programming issues, most of which have been ironed out. But even though CalPADS does today collect a vast array of student data, the system’s inability to link with other state education and social service data programs greatly limits its usefulness.

In a report last fall from Stanford University, researchers found that even basic questions about the performance of public schools in California couldn’t be answered, such as:

  • Are smaller K-3 class sizes a good investment?
  • Which schools are most successful in moving English learners to full proficiency?
  • Are the state’s publicly funded preschool programs having a positive impact on kindergarten readiness?

The big frustration, the Stanford team said, is that the data is being collected, it just couldn’t be easily shared.

“A longitudinal data system would help policymakers and educators figure out how to better support students in meeting their educational goals and the state’s workforce needs,” Glazer said. “It would monitor student progress from one grade to the next and measure whether students are on track to high school graduation, college enrollment, and college completion. It would include reforms to be monitored, gaps in the education system to be identified, and specific changes to be made.”

Glazer’s bill comes in conjunction with a $10 million allocation included in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed state budget intended to finance the planning at early implementation of the new data system.

As proposed under SB 2, the state would reauthorize the California Postsecondary Education Commission—which was red-lined by former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011-12 as part of a cost-cutting effort.

The commission would then convene a subcommittee that included representatives of all state education stakeholders—from schools and districts to colleges and labor and employee groups.

That subcommittee would hold public hearings and collect needed information for preparing a report for the Legislature by July 1, 2021 on how the new data system should be constituted.

SB 2 won passage last month out of two key Senate oversight committees but was placed into the suspense file, probably pending further negotiations between the governor and Legislative leaders over the budget. more