By facilitating the collection and use of detailed, high quality student- and staff-level data linked over time, longitudinal data systems (LDSs) hold promise for enhancing both the way education agencies use data to serve students and the way they do business, from the policy level to the school office and into the classroom. This document, the first installment of a four-part Forum Guide series on longitudinal data systems (LDS), focuses on the fundamental questions of what an LDS is (and what it is not), what steps should be taken to achieve a sound system, what components make up an ideal system, and why such a system is of value in education. The full series is intended to help state and local education agencies meet the many challenges involved in building robust LDSs, populating them with quality data, and using this new information to improve the education system.
Publications of the National Forum on Education Statistics do not undergo the formal review required for products of the National Center for Education Statistics. The information and opinions published here are the product of the National Forum on Education Statistics and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the U.S. Department of Education or the National Center for Education Statistics.