The state of California should develop and support a longitudinal student record system to monitor student progress from elementary through postsecondary education and into the workplace.
Linked student-level data is tremendously useful, both to conduct program evaluation and also to provide students with improved direction and support. Under the present system, educational records are housed separately at each of the public education segments (CCC, CDE, CSU, UC). While these institutions routinely share data for a variety of mandated reports and studies, data has not been aggregated centrally or effectively leveraged to benefit students.
System-wide, student-level data linked to the other higher education segments, K-12, and workforce records allow for robust evaluation of whether specific programs and services are effectively helping students to achieve their educational and career objectives. Information on what is working and what is not working, in turn, allows colleges and the state to set funding priorities that maximize positive impacts and put students’ needs first. The need to target resources to support effective strategies has increased as the state budget crisis has led to significant cuts in funding for public education in general, and the community colleges in particular.
Shared student-level data will also allow colleges to provide students with more timely and better-targeted support services. For example, more robust and reliable linked data will strengthen both in-person and online education planning and advisement. Specifically, improved student-level information will enable counselors and online tools to more effectively provide guidance to students as they select courses and sequence those courses in a manner appropriate to their program of study. Such data will also assist in maintaining transcripts and monitoring students’ degree status so students can manage their progress on their pathway toward their postsecondary goals.
The need for system-wide data that are both current and accurate is all the more pressing given the increasing mobility of our students. Due to a variety of reasons, including a shortage of classes, an increasing number of community college students are transferring among colleges during their educational career or taking courses at more than one college at the same time. Shared student-level data will allow college personnel to more easily aggregate academic records from multiple colleges in a timely and accurate manner, resulting in a more cohesive educational experience for our students.
Implementing a shared data system will also help to advance many of the other institutional reforms contained in the Task Force recommendations. These reforms include: synchronization of assessments; implementation of system-wide enrollment priorities; and matching course offerings with the course needs identified in student education plans.