Trends in State Longitudinal Data Systems: Examining Innovative and Emerging Practices in SLDS Research and Reporting

The Next Generation of State Longitudinal Data Systems

Educators and decision makers nationwide have come to realize the importance of using data to inform everything from legislative and administrative decisions to developing instructional strategies to improve student, teacher, and school performance. As a result of the increased emphasis on data use and a realization that merging data from a number of different sources can yield powerful information that will have a positive effect on policies, programs and, ultimately, lives, many states have developed or are in the process of developing state longitudinal data systems (SLDS).

SLDS data have been used for a broad spectrum of functions from simple automation of single agency reports to complex analyses that identify trends and assess areas of strengths and weaknesses. As states seek to enhance SLDS functionality, program directors are developing sophisticated reporting tools, and SLDS-generated research projects that are revealing surprising new insights on elementary through secondary education. These newly-developed reports and tools have revealed answers to long-term questions such as students’ college and career readiness; potential wage earnings based on schools attended or the programs in which they enrolled; program efficacy; and how chronic absenteeism beginning in the earliest elementary years can have long-term effects throughout K-12 and even affect persistence and performance in college.

According to SLDS program representatives nationwide, developing advanced reporting tools and research reports for agency-specific and public use represents the future of SLDS functionality. These reports and data tools serve to:

  • Provide better data to schools on outcomes, achievement indicators, and statewide assessment results
  • Facilitate the sharing of practices among school districts
  • Provide data to the public on school district outcomes and college readiness
  • Evaluate student outcomes and college readiness
  • Evaluate workforce outcomes
  • Supplement research studies using data from other sources
  • Fulfill internal agency research agendas

In addition, reports, data stories, and research studies are excellent tools to inform the citizenry and government officials about program effectiveness, and enhance the transparency of government programs.

Nationwide Research into Reporting and Research Trends

Figure 1. Utah – Report on Postsecondary Graduates’ Industry of Employment One Year After Graduation

In order to develop a multi-agency longitudinal data system that supports the needs of partner agencies, researchers and policymakers, state agencies must work to identify reports and research initiatives that will be most useful for all stakeholders. This research brief summarizes national trends in state longitudinal data systems reporting functionalities and research initiatives.

During the research phase, the CIT Connect team used primary and secondary sources to examine the varied trends in data storage, data reporting and research initiatives among SLDS partners. This was accomplished through literature reviews of current trends in SLDS reporting and research, analyses of reports and research projects produced by state departments of education and/or agency consortia, and through direct interviews with several state representatives. In general, the interviews were conducted with states’ SLDS project managers and/or program directors.

Selected Research Findings

The following section summarizes several key findings revealed by this research project.

States are building out reporting tools to provide publicly available information on K12, higher education, and workforce outcomes.

Figure 2. Virginia – Wage Reports Search Tool

South Dakota and Maine are developing user interfaces that would give members of the public greater access to aggregate-level data.

Virginia launched a portal that allows users to search potential earnings by occupation or college major. Using data compiled on Virginia school students from K-12 through college and into the workplace, the system calculates average earnings at 18 months and five years after completion of a certificate or degree program. The system even allows a user to drill down to see earnings potential by institution, degree and major. A new report was released recently on the wage earnings of Virginia students by occupation up to 20 years after graduating from college.

Figure 3. Rhode Island - Infographic

Many states are developing interactive dashboards and publishing data stories, and easy-to-understand one-page infographics to provide usable data to the public.

Rhode Island publishes extensive “data stories,” narratives with interactive graphical tools that address current burning education questions and other issues such as the effect of chronic absenteeism on performance, the importance of math preparation in postsecondary success, and demographic breakdowns of students in public colleges and universities. Further, to respond to the need for fast, simple, easy-to-digest infor-mation, Rhode Island also has developed several one-page infographics to condense the information developed through SLDS reports into an at-a-glance format.

Several states are developing interactive tools to inform the public about workforce outcomes.

Figure 4. Arkansas - Chord Visualization Utility

Using SLDS data, a number of states are developing sophisticated tools that will allow members of the public to view workforce outcomes based on degree patchways, average earnings per degree, and so forth. Arkansas’ Chord Visualization Utility (pictured right) provides users the ability to see the connection between broad degree areas and the industry sectors in which recent public and private higher education graduates actually are employed upon graduation. Among other benefits, these data can allow educators and policy makers to create strategies to attract and retain students and workers and to develop programs to match industry needs.

Read the full report and discover:

  • Which states are on the cutting edge of SLDS functionality
  • Strategies for developing more robust reporting functionality
  • Best practices from across the nation
  • The potential impact of an SLDS with improved reporting functionality
  • Trends in SLDS agency-sponsored and publicly sponsored research projects
  • Which states have innovative research and reporting programs
  • Trends in SLDS research agendas nationwide

For a copy of the complete report, contact CIT Connect at