The Ideal State Postsecondary Data System: 15 Essential Characteristics and Required Functionality

A rapidly changing global economy, shifting demographics, and concerns about our ability to maintain a competitive workforce have focused national attention on the educational systems of America’s states, highlighting their critical role in ensuring a productive and creative future for our country. 

Central in addressing these needs are robust and aligned data systems able to document the achievement of students, schools and colleges, as well as respond to questions about a state’s investment in higher education. There is a growing policy imperative to address educational pipeline issues. Attention must also be paid to data systems able to monitor student progress across the K-16 continuum, enable early assessment leading to effective intervention strategies, and locate barriers within systems. Most of the important public policy and research questions related to this imperative can only be addressed through the use of Student Unit Record (SUR) systems. These systems contain an individual electronic record for each student enrolled in an institution or school for each term or year. Current SUR databases contain millions of individual student records covering the majority of educational activity in the nation. Such longitudinal systems collect a range of demographic and performance data at regular intervals. These records can be merged with other longitudinal files to investigate student success and behavior over time, and across settings and treatments. They also can be analyzed to examine progress made and impacts on particular populations.

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Publication Date: 
Monday, September 14, 2009
Peter Ewell and Hans L’Orange
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