To achieve "basic" functionality, an LDS will include the following core elements, components, and capabilities:
A student unique identifier system is the basis for an LDS. Without this component, tracking students over time and space will be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. A unique statewide student identifier is "a single, nonduplicated number that is assigned to, and remains with, a student throughout his or her P–12 career (and beyond). Assignment of a unique statewide student identifier to every student in the P–12 system provides a way to follow students as they move from grade to grade, and across campuses and/or districts within the state. (Using the student identifier to track student participation and performance) can help show
Ideally, the unique identifier should follow the student from early childhood through postsecondary education, and even across state lines. Of course, coordination across the education system is necessary to maintain a single, unique identifier that will stay with each student throughout his or her education.
At the district level, an LDS may contain two unique identifiers for a single student: a local identifier and a state-assigned one to enable integration with the statewide system.
Making sure that students are consistently identified by the same number over time can be complicated by several challenges, including the existence of both state and local identifiers, inconsistent reporting by students, clerical errors, and student transfers across district or state lines. Though a unique identifier system has been implemented in most states, some still require that districts collect Social Security Numbers (SSN) as a secondary form of student identification. The collection of SSNs heightens concerns about student privacy; however, the SSNs can be stored in a secure electronic system and used only when needed to improve consistency and record-matching; and to facilitate broader data sharing beyond P–12, since the SSN is commonly used by postsecondary institutions and other government agencies.