As part of its report series, the DQC focused on three high-stakes questions to highlight the importance of student data mobility:

  • High school graduation rates: In 2012, roughly 80,000 students moved to a new state. If states can’t document these transfers, those students are counted as “non-graduates” and lower the graduation rate.
  • Postsecondary success: Every year, approximately 400,000 high school graduates enroll as first-time freshmen at out-of-state institutions. Many students transfer institutions, adding to data complications.
  • Educator preparation: California, New York, and Texas product about 48 percent of the nation’s teachers, and at least 20,000 teachers said they worked in a public school in another state the previous year.

Many states are working to build IT systems, but education leaders aren’t getting a complete picture because these IT systems are not keeping up with the fact that education crosses state lines when students transfer schools or enroll in online courses, Guidera said. Data must follow individual students and be able to be shared back and forth.

It’s important to raise awareness about multi-state student data sharing and linking to ensure that transferring students receive uninterrupted education and services, Guidera added.

“When we talk about moving data across borders of states, it’s not being done on a big scale today,” said Shawn Bay, founder of eScholar, which provides longitudinal data systems for 13 states, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and the Migrant Student Information Exchange. “That’s quite a challenge.”

Bay said a number of things are driving the interstate exchange effort, including a broad realization that personalizing education is very important; the knowledge that personalized education can only be done when all the data for each individual are integrated and available to the appropriate people; and the knowledge that sharing student data securely and in a timely manner improves the chances of success and personalization of instruction.

Challenges include matching and linking records across states accurately and in a timely manner; ensuring security, scalability, and accessibility; clarifying data exchange techniques; and compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and data-sharing policies.

Bay said eScholar is working with four states on the eScholar Interstate ID eXchange to help states share data.

“There are a lot of frustrating factors in the field of education that relate to the collection, analysis, and use of data,” said Lori Fey of the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. “The concept of moving to common education data standards is critically important.”

The foundation broadly supports a widely-adopted education data standard and financed the creation of the Ed-Fi system, an open-source tool that lets educators pull and use data from a range of existing sources.