Longitudinal Data System

Develop and maintain a longitudinal data system for tracking students’ progress throughout their educations and into the workforce. Access to rich yet digestible data on student experiences and transitions to careers is essential for creating a culture of inquiry and improvement among policymakers and practitioners.

Recommendation 2

Longitudinal Data System

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Connecting data systems and routinely analyzing data helps postsecondary institutions better understand where their students are coming from (whether from K-12 schools, the workforce, or other institutions) and how well prepared they are for their next step, whether that is employment or transfer to another educational program. The U.S. Department of Education supplied startup funds to states to create or expand longitudinal data systems; however, there’s more work to be done to cement a culture of data inquiry and improvement.


Fundamentally, JFF calls on states to maintain a system for linking compatible data from K-12 school systems, community colleges, and universities to track student progress and outcomes. States should also feed labor market information into their data systems to support “apples to apples” comparisons of the way students with similar interests and academic experiences perform in the workforce. JFF also recommends that states disaggregate data by student demographics and learner types to uncover key differences. Importantly, states should turn the data into useful information and publicly release findings regularly, with the desired goal of informing policy and guiding the education and career decisions of students and their families. A routine flow of actionable information is critically important to understanding persistent gaps in access and completion and developing targeted strategies to close them.