Cementing data system requirements in law
Too often, data sharing agreements between state agencies are only as strong as the individuals who brokered them. The departure of a key staff person can result in partnerships breaking down and data returning to traditional silos. Therefore, when designing its state longitudinal data system, California ensured that key provisions were written into law. Furthermore, the authorizing legislation made changes to statute that removed roadblocks to sharing information in order to create the desired functionality.
Create a required planning process
California began the development of its data system by passing legislation that described the required scope for the planning process before building the data system. This included:
- specifying which state entities would be involved
- including non-state entities in the planning process
- identifying the topics that needed to be addressed
The requirements flagged many of the core components of data governance (see the Data Governance section), which meant that state agencies and community members had to think about many facets of implementation before the work even began. This helped to ensure that the plans focused on who the data system was for and what it would produce, which yielded a much more comprehensive approach than might have been adopted otherwise.
The legislation also required that the planning process go beyond linking K-12 and postsecondary information and include a broader array of data. It clarified that social service, health, and workforce agencies should participate in the planning process and identified research questions related to early learning, financial aid, and employment outcomes.
Finally, the legislation stated the data system must address ways that students would also benefit, such as by exchanging electronic transcripts to support college application processes. This helped to expand the list of potential users and their needs (see the Purpose and Vision section), which in turn led to the inclusion of college and career planning tools and support for accessing social services, in addition to transcripts. Framing the legislation this way ensured that the system would be useful to a wide range of audiences, and that these users were at the center of the system’s design process.
You can consider whether a similar approach will be useful for your state, and which requirements are most relevant for your state’s needs.
Establish legislated expectations for implementation
To help ensure the longevity of California’s intersegmental data system, a second piece of legislation was authored by the Department of Finance that spelled out data system requirements, in alignment with recommendations from the planning process. The list below summarizes some of the key requirements.
- Establish roles and responsibilities, including:
- membership, terms, and responsibilities of the governing board
- focus and terms of two advisory boards
- responsibilities of the entity managing the data
- Set the terms for providing information for the analytical data set, including requiring data providers to:
- sign a legal agreement that governs data sharing terms
- contribute data once per year, based on data elements specified in a legal agreement
- adopt and adjust as necessary a data dictionary, data standards, and security protocols to ensure interoperability between the data system, the source data, and other state data systems using the same source data
- ensure source data is of the highest quality before submitting the data and conduct data quality audits
- approve data requests in the public interest, meaning that the analysis will enable parents, educators, health and human services providers, researchers, and policymakers to provide appropriate interventions and supports to address disparities in opportunities and improve outcomes for all students
- Emphasize the need for community input including:
- Requirements that governing board members, advisory board members, and managing entity employees consider and respond to stakeholder input
- Ensuring the continued use of a user-centered design approach
- Clarify how other products of the data system, such as tools to support college, career, and financial aid planning and applications, should be leveraged to address state priorities, such as:
- Promoting the use of free tools
- Streamlining the college and financial aid application process
- Supporting high school counselors to monitor progress on completing applications
- Enabling electronic exchanges of transcripts to support college admissions and advising
- Supporting data cleanup
You can consider whether a similar approach will be useful for your state, and which aspects are most relevant for your state’s needs.