While an LDS is often defined by its technical components and capabilities (see chapter 3), an effective system involves much more than expanded technology and data collections. Designing and building a robust LDS for long-term use must also address many nontechnical processes. These processes require the support and engagement of key stakeholders outside of the IT department, both within and outside the education agency.
The following nontechnical activities or "steps" do not have to be accomplished in any particular order, but long-term success requires they all be completed. Each of these steps is addressed in detail in this series.
An LDS is only as good as the data it contains. To ensure data quality, develop a data governance process and structure for setting standards and policies, organizing staff, creating oversight committees, and identifying clear roles and responsibilities. Ideally, this should be the first step in the LDS implementation process, ensuring that the data in the LDS will be appropriate and reliable and, in turn, trusted and effectively used throughout the education community.
A successful LDS will meet the needs of a wide variety of users. Involve a broad range of stakeholders to gather feedback about information needs, inform system design, and build grassroots interest in the planned system. Engage interested parties from inside and outside the education agency to create a vision; identify key policy, political, and instructional questions that the LDS will answer; and articulate reporting needs and potential new uses of data.
Over time, there will be fluctuations in resource availability and changes in political leadership. To ensure long-term support and sustainability, building both high-level and grassroots demand for the system is critical. In addition to engaging stakeholders, identify "data champions" within the agency and among state policymakers. These champions can help build support for the system, locate sources of start-up and maintenance funds, and develop a culture of data use in which data are valued as assets in the effort to improve education at all levels of government.
Agencies must know why they want an LDS and what stakeholders need from the system. Before building or buying an LDS, assess your agency's current data system, data assets, and data use; and review your organization's structure and resources to determine what needs to be done to get the desired system. The needs assessment should result in a document that addresses specific technical requirements, recommendations for organizational structure changes, and/or recommendations about governance processes. Take the time to gather stakeholder input, as well as lessons learned and best practices from other agencies that are further along in the process.
Create a plan for providing professional development and training to key stakeholders in order to ensure appropriate and effective, long-term use of the LDS. Review internal staff skill sets and external options for modes of instruction, and identify funding sources for ongoing training. This vital step will ensure that users are not only able to use the system to access and analyze the data, but also that they will understand how to better interpret the results.
During the LDS planning stage, involve potential LDS users to identify key questions that educators, policymakers, and practitioners need answered to improve student achievement. This step should identify the best methods for producing timely, useful data for a variety of stakeholders, including legislators, state agency staff, local administrators, educators, researchers, parents, and students. Having planned the system to meet the needs of these end users, and having trained these users to make the most of the new data, the new information will more likely be utilized to improve the education system and the educational outcomes of individual students.
|The many monikers of LDSs
The concept of a longitudinal data system (LDS) has been given many names in education, business, and IT literature. No matter what moniker you choose, however, the key factor common to these systems is student-level, longitudinal data that can be tracked over time and across institutions. LDSs have been called