The team behind California’s plan to connect the state’s sparse education data, an effort known as Cradle-to-Career, will begin hosting public debates on June 8 to find out what users can expect from the system’s new dashboards and data tools.
The data itself has not been compiled – in fact, the technology platform that will securely house the data will not be decided until late summer. That’s why public discussions begin this month, according to the project’s executive director, Mary Ann Bates, with the intention of hosting them regularly on Zoom video to make them as accessible as possible to everyone.
“We want to make sure that we’re talking with families, with students, with educators, with all potential users of this system early on, focusing on this user experience, and listening and hearing: what do you need? What questions do you want to answer that you can’t answer right now because you don’t have access to the information gathered in this way?” Bates said in an interview with EdSource. “And it will tell how we build the dashboards, how we design the query builder, how we create a data system that people can actually use.”
Anyone interested in providing feedback on the Data Hub will have the opportunity to be heard as the system develops. In addition to the public discussions beginning this month, there are quarterly board meetings and upcoming meetings for newly formed ad hoc committees and task forces.
Although some of these meetings are held in person, they continue to be on Zoom so everyone can tune in and comment.
The Cradle-to-Career system will link student education data across the state, from TK to college to career. Their team recently signed legal agreements with 15 state entities that will help them start compiling this data, including the three largest college and university systems, the Student Aid Commission and the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, among others.
These legal agreements will allow the Cradle-to-Career team to begin accessing and compiling the data that will help develop the dashboards and tools offered. The first proposed dashboard will focus on teacher training and teacher employment outcomes.
The system is set to launch next year with comprehensive dashboard and tool sets that will support career and college planning, provide data on TK trends to the college and career, and will provide insight into the academic experiences of California students.
The advantages of such a system, according to its proponents, are that it is impossible to understand the academic and career outcomes of Californians without knowing the details of a student’s college career. Once built, the data system is intended to help various groups: college counselors who want to find the best tools to help high school students apply to college, researchers so they can answer questions about the results whether students have access to social services such as medical care. , and students so they can find out if they might be eligible for resources such as financial aid and food aid.
Additionally, advocates say, it would remove some of the barriers that students and their families currently face when seeking answers to questions in which various state, county and school departments may play a role. With Cradle-to-Career, the responses from these departments would be concentrated in the planned data system.
In practice, the system aims to offer two components that will eventually be available in several languages.
“It’s operational and practical tools that help students navigate important transitions, and it’s an integrated data system that brings together information that already exists and makes it more useful for understanding,” said Bates.
These practical tools will include “easy-to-use visuals of key education outcomes”, such as their website describes them, which will help users understand the education system in California and help students make decisions such as choosing a college that meets their needs, applying for financial aid, and knowing the total cost of attending the chosen college. Users will also have the ability to create their own data tables to use to interpret the available data, and researchers will be able to request access to “anonymized data at the individual levelmeaning that researchers will be able to obtain data on students’ progress through the education system, but without any identifying information.
Concerns about student privacy emerged from the time lawmakers authorized the Cradle-to-Career system in 2019. These concerns were particularly centered on the initial idea of including specific student identifiers, such as a unique identification number for each student, an idea that has since been scrapped.
As Bates explained, the information that will make up the Cradle-to-Career data system is currently hosted by various departments and agencies.
“When C2C brings this data together, it will go through a matching process,” she added, noting that the new statewide data system will implement strict privacy protections. “As soon as this match is made, all identifying information is removed from the analytical dataset. This matching process will be repeated over time as our data providers submit updated data by matching updated data to previously submitted information.Credentials will only be used as part of the matching process, and credentials are not part of the analytical dataset.
Since its authorization, the legislator has so far allocated 25 million dollars for the development of the data system. Most states are ahead of California in having a system in place to track student progress using education data. Developing a similar statewide database became a promise during Gov. Gavin Newsom’s gubernatorial race.
Over the past six months, the project has progressed steadily along the projected schedule. The project board – made up of 21 legislators, education officials and advocates – now meets quarterly meetings. The board recently named its first chair and appointed its first CEO.
With the first dashboards due to launch by 2023, one of the main goals of the Cradle-to-Career team has been to generate interest from the communities that will use the system.
“We strongly believe this is not government data. It’s people’s data, and we’re just stewards,” said Ben Chida, deputy secretary general in the governor’s office, a position that includes serving as senior policy adviser for the Cradle-to-Career Project. “It is our responsibility both to ensure that it is safe, protected and secure, but also that we maximize the value for the people that this data represents.”
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