Data Across Reauthorizations
Clear and Consistent Data Expectations
Several major federal laws that govern a broad array of education and workforce programs have recently undergone, or are due for, reauthorization. The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) was reauthorized in 2014 as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The Perkins Career and Technical Education Act and the Higher Education Act (HEA) are both overdue for reauthorization. These laws address different programs and populations, but they share the common goal of educating and preparing Americans for fulfilling lives and careers. Having the same data reporting definitions allows programs to work together more effectively to achieve their mutual goals. Lawmakers should consider the following:
- Adopt common data elements and definitions. If programs use the same definitions for information they are required to report, such as the attainment of different types of credentials, they will be able to share data for case management. Common definitions also enable cross-program analysis that shows policymakers the “big picture” of human capital development.
- Encourage employment outcome reporting. All education, training, and workforce programs should be able to report aggregate employment outcomes. It may not be appropriate for all programs to have employment outcomes as performance measures, but prospective students, service providers, and the public should have access to data on whether program completers are getting jobs and what they earn. To help students make smart choices about education and training, aggregate outcomes for education and training programs should be presented not just by institution, but also by program of study.
- Promote reliable data sources. Requirements to use administrative data, including data in state longitudinal data systems, for measuring participant progress and outcomes would encourage further development of these systems and ensure that data being reported has consistent meaning and quality across programs.