Insights into school system initiatives that contributed to postsecondary success for former students could help inform decision-makers of practices to support current students, according to recommendations from the Data Quality Campaign and Chiefs for Change.
The information about individual students' journeys from K-12 and into careers, known as "pathways data," could help district-level staff develop interventions for career readiness and allow counselors to better advise students on course selections. At the state level, the data that includes early childhood, elementary and secondary education, postsecondary education, training and the workforce — referred to as P-20W — could help leaders track progress on postsecondary goals and allocate resources more effectively, the report said.
Pandemic-related challenges have intensified the need to support students' transitions to college and career, but there are many obstacles to linking data with practice, including incomplete data and lack of time for analysis.
According to the report, K-12 leaders are seeking data that provide insights into the shorter and long-term outcomes of former students, as well as differentiated metrics that reveal how outcomes varied across student populations.
"Leaders currently have many questions they are unable to answer based on available data, from straightforward questions about college-going patterns to complex research questions about the impact of specific programs on students' long-term outcomes," the report said.
The ability to accurately trace student pathways back to high school experiences could help the Tennessee Department of Education give current students access to opportunities and credentials to prepare them for high-wage, high-skilled jobs, Jean Luna, TDOE's chief of programs, said in the report.
In Texas' Ector County Independent School District, district and school staff are preparing students to have a diverse set of skills in reaction to the economy's "ebbs and flows," as experienced during the pandemic. Analyzing pathways data can help the district build an action plan that sets students up for success in multiple ways, said Annette Macias, Ector County ISD's executive director of accountability, assessment and school improvement, in the report.
“Our goal is graduating students who are prepared for a range of options, not just one track,” Macias said.
The report's authors interviewed state and local K-12 leaders about their data needs. This is what they named as most valuable:
- De-identified, student level and longitudinal data: Secure student-level data could allow leaders to disaggregate information by student populations and follow outcomes specific to those groups.
- Context: Leaders want to be able to see if their local data reflects statewide trends.
- Timeliness: Pathways data should be provided on a predictable timeline that aligns with decision-making opportunities for programming. It is expected the data will have a lag, but being able to anticipate its availability can help educators plan for analysis.
- Ease of use: Having the data in a format that allows leaders to make sense of the stories told will allow them to answer specific questions about the effectiveness of past or current programs.
- Support for analysis and use: State leaders need assistance in translating the data's information into action and growing the capacity to help districts do the same.