VLDS to Create Dashboards Depicting Virginia’s Rural/Urban Divide

by Jenna Leventoff
February 15, 2016

Late last month the Virginia Longitudinal Data System (VLDS) announced that it would partner with the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) on the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative (RVHI) to create data visualizations using longitudinal data.

The RVHI aims to narrow the significant disparity between educational attainment rates in Virginia’s rural communities (which look like a horseshoe on the map), and its urban areas. The divide is so significant that if these two regions of Virginia were considered states in a national ranking of educational attainment, Virginia’s urban areas would rank second, while its rural areas would be tied for 50th place. To narrow this divide, the RVHI places community college employees into high schools to serve as career coaches, and provides funding to help students obtain a postsecondary credential.

The VLDS will further this mission by publishing online a variety of dashboards intended to provide stakeholders with a clear visualization of the rural/urban divide in Virginia. Some of the images will be used for RVHI program accountability. These dashboards will depict the outcomes of students served by the RVHI (such as GED attainment, enrollment in postsecondary education, and certificate attainment) or will compare those outcomes with students who weren’t served. Other dashboards will simply compare rural and urban areas on metrics including unemployment rates, median income, and median employment rates.

The dashboards will be funded with money from the state’s Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) grant, provided by the U.S. Department of Labor to enhance state workforce longitudinal databases. 

VLDS hopes to release the dashboards by June 2016. VLDS also plans to use its longitudinal data to create a handful of other dashboards, including one which would show the number of people in the state receiving workforce development services.

One of the key actions of WDQC’s policy agenda is to promote the development and use of dashboards in order to provide useful information to the public, program administrators, and policymakers.