December 1, 2021
Report Offers Recommendations for How Systems Can Access and Use Postsecondary Outcomes Data to Support Students’ Success

Chiefs for Change and Data Quality Campaign today released a report that outlines how states and districts can track where students go after high school graduation to help design schools and programs that will prepare all young people to succeed in life. Currently, many states and districts do not track, or find it hard to access, data about whether their former students enroll in or graduate from college, enter the workforce, enlist in the military, or pursue service opportunities once they leave high school. Without these data, it is difficult to know whether schools are ensuring students graduate ready for college and careers. In addition, the lack of data hinders states’ ability to gauge progress toward postsecondary educational attainment and workforce goals; analyze the factors that lead to positive long-term outcomes; craft policies aligned to the conditions young people face after graduation; and allocate resources in an equitable manner to effective programs.

To help address these issues, DQC interviewed representatives of nine state education departments, school districts, and schools to determine whether and how they are using postsecondary outcomes data, including data related to college enrollment and completion, financial aid, wages, and industry trends. Based on those insights, DQC identified common barriers to accessing postsecondary data and developed recommendations for how to overcome these obstacles.

Several of the K-12 systems interviewed for the report are led by members of Chiefs for Change. All of them use a variety of data processes and operate in areas with different political contexts and economic needs.

Titled, It’s Time to Make Linked Data Work for K-12 Leaders, the report provides the following recommendations for state education agencies:

  • Establish a formal cross-agency data governing body comprised of all data users within the state, including K-12 practitioners, to help break down silos among the various entities. The body would codify cross-agency policies to support shared education and workforce goals, protect student privacy, and communicate transparently about how student information is used.
  • Ensure data infrastructure is designed to meet the needs of K-12 schools by securing sustained funding to support continuous improvement, communicating the value and possible uses of data systems, and implementing interstate data-sharing compacts to maximize impact.
  • Create user-oriented data tools that make linked data available to districts and schools and engage a variety of decision makers in processes for designing and disseminating these tools at the local level.
  • Build capacity for postsecondary data analysis and use by establishing district-level peer learning networks, convening statewide data conferences, developing shared research agendas, and creating research-practice partnerships.

In addition to providing a guide for states on how to use postsecondary outcomes data, Chiefs for Change and DQC call on Congress to prioritize passage of the College Transparency Act (CTA), lifting the ban on a federal student unit record. Passing CTA would allow the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to collect student-level, protected data from states’ postsecondary systems while still protecting personally identifiable information. Currently, postsecondary institutions share mostly aggregate-level data with ED, and as a result, the questions that can be answered using that data are limited. CTA would pave the way for leaders to have access to comparable and useful information about how well students are prepared for their next step after graduation.