Across the country, state and local education agencies are developing longitudinal data systems (LDS); some are just getting started while others explore ways to grow or better harness systems that have been in place for years. The federal government first endorsed LDS development in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.* It has since provided grants through the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education (USED), which has helped many states in their LDS development efforts. The federal government has also advised states to "(build) data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction," which is an eligibility requirement for Race to the Top funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Vendors are offering a growing number of products and services to facilitate the collection, storage, and use of longitudinal data. Additionally, a number of national organizations are providing support for LDS development efforts, or working to communicate the need for, and benefits of, these data systems. By facilitating the collection and use of high quality student-level information, LDSs hold promise for enhancing both the way we use data to more effectively serve our students; and the way we do business, from the policy level, to the school office, and into the classroom.