Backed by a strong and unprecedented federal investment in education, the Obama administration has identified multiple objectives intended to help revamp the nation’s education system–and a persistent use of student data to improve instruction is one of those objectives.

President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have emphasized the need for all states to implement longitudinal data systems to track the progress of students from kindergarten through college and the workforce. Those data systems also would link students to their respective teachers and help school leaders identify strengths and weaknesses within their districts.

A portion of the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED’s) stimulus funding is intended to help states create comprehensive, longitudinal data systems to track the academic progress of individual students from kindergarten through college and the workforce.

Creating such systems will help states generate accurate data and use those data to support improvement in all aspects of education, according to the administration’s Recovery.gov web site. Data also may be used to improve student achievement and close achievement gaps.

A total of $250 million is intended for statewide longitudinal data systems and will be distributed by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the form of competitive grants to states, which will be awarded in November.

Governors must agree to a condition that their state build a high-quality educational longitudinal data system if they apply for funds from the $53.6 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. Those funds are being distributed in two rounds–the first began in April, and the other is expected to begin later this summer.

Statewide data systems will provide better information to educators, education leaders, and the public, Duncan says, and they also would address individual students’ needs and help improve teacher performance.

As part of the push to implement comprehensive data systems, states must report on their progress toward implementing all 12 elements described in the America COMPETES Act–including tracking the progress of individual students, matching students to teachers, and tracking whether teachers receive timely data on student performance.

Once the grants to create longitudinal data systems have been awarded, IES will have monthly conversations with each state grantee to make sure its grant project is meeting its project timeline. States must submit quarterly reports and an annual activities and progress report, as required in the stimulus law, so that IES may review them for required procedures and proper spending.