Conference Aims to Strengthen Data Quality and Use

by Christina Pena
July 17, 2015

WDQC recently joined the National Center for Education Statistics STATS-DC conference for discussions on “Strong Uses for Strong Data.” Hundreds of participants came from across the country to share the latest news on data systems relevant to education and workforce development in their states.

WDQC Director Rachel Zinn spoke on the topic of “Employer Engagement with Education and Workforce Information.” She explained how employers are participating in elements of WDQC’s state blueprint, such as industry validation of credentials, skills gap analysis, and data governance. 

Joining Rachel on the panel were Jaimie Francis of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, who discussed her organization’s new report that shows how employers can collaborate and use data to improve talent pipelines in their industries and regions; and Catherine Imperatore of the Association for Career and Technical Education, who discussed her organization’s work on a project that links education records to industry certification data.  (View the slides from the panel discussion.)

With many good sessions running concurrently throughout the three-day conference, WDQC was unable to cover all of them. In addition to employer engagement, progress on data systems and privacy issues were significant topics:

  • States have been making considerable progress on their statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS). To name a few cases, Maine has been working to roll out a new online analytics and reporting system by late summer, and Wyoming has been modernizing a P20W SLDS. Rhode Island has been making advancements with its RI Data Hub, which provides policy-relevant research on education and the workforce, and the state's Data Sharing Project has been benefiting from the guidance of its Advisory Council.  (Also see WDQC’s blog on Rhode Island’s and Wyoming’s recent research using Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants.)
  • Data privacy was a big topic at the conference. Session discussions addressed how to maintain data privacy by using special anonymization methods when matching data between inter-state agencies; how agencies can more successfully engage stakeholders by sharing the contours of their data privacy stories; and how recent state and federal legislation could further enable or hinder the development of longitudinal data systems. (For the latest developments on data privacy legislation, see information from the National Association of State Boards of Education and the Data Quality Campaign). 

Conference speakers were often candid about the challenges that agencies have encountered along the way. Ensuring sustainable funding for supporting and advancing longitudinal data systems, and navigating political, bureaucratic, and legal issues were recurring themes. The most consistent themes, however, were the tremendous value of quality data systems for education and workforce policies, and the importance of engaging all relevant stakeholders to better inform and support these systems for greater success.