Data Sharing Pilot Advances

by Michelle Massie
June 3, 2014

A recent clarification by U.S. Department of Education staff may make it easier for states and third party entities to enter into data sharing projects. 

In April, Workforce Data Quality Campaign released a report, Credential Data Pioneers: Forging New Partnerships to Measure Certifications and Licenses, which highlighted states and schools that have taken steps to broker data-sharing agreements with certification bodies and licensing agencies in order to better understand the attainment and value of selected non-degree credentials.

One of the case studies featured in the report was the 2012 partnership between the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) and Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), a trade association that develops information technology certifications, to explore ways to match individual-level certification data with other education and workforce program data.

By matching their disparate datasets, partners in the CompTIA and Illinois Industry Certification Data Sharing Pilot Project were interested in analyzing preparation for employment in high-demand IT occupations, validation of demand-driven skill sets and the value of embedding industry certifications into programs of study.

The project was successful in matching certification data with student records from Illinois community colleges to analyze characteristics of students who took and passed certification tests against those who did not pass, and matching with wage records to assess students’ employment outcomes. Characteristics of students who did not pass were analyzed as well. The project was also successful in demonstrating the major legal issues in sharing data and identifying ways to improve the quality of data matching.

Privacy issues between the certifying bodies and exam takers presented a barrier to progress. To protect itself when sharing individual-level data, CompTIA had asked states to enter into an Indemnification Agreement that included a “hold harmless” clause. The clause meant that states took on responsibility for any individual data that may be improperly released. Several states faced challenges signing the agreements, but a recent change by CompTIA may allow more states to participate in the project.

According to the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), a WDQC partner, CompTIA announced at the National Association of Career & Technical Education Information (NACTEI) conference last month that it is developing a new data sharing agreement that eliminates the need for indemnification and calls for sharing more data elements. These new data elements will increase confidence in the matches that are produced.

The indemnification was eliminated based on guidance from Department of Education staff that data owned by third parties that are not educational institutions is not subject to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This guidance makes it easier for CompTIA to share its individual-level data with the state for matching with other data sets, without the fear of incurring liability. The state complies with FERPA by keeping the individual-level data confidential and only releasing aggregate data.

ACTE, in cooperation with a number of national and state partners, is supporting this project to expand and improve data exchange between industry certification organizations and state longitudinal data systems.

The project is based on a multi-year roadmap for the development of a national data exchange clearinghouse that will allow states and educational institutions to gain access to data on industry-recognized certifications earned by students.

These changes to the Data Sharing Project align with Workforce Data Quality Campaign’s efforts to measure the full range of credentials — not just those associated with traditional education pathways.