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A Publication of the National Center for Education Statistics at IES

Methodology and Technical Notes

Overview of the SLDS Survey

The Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) Survey was created to assess states’ and territories’ capacity for automated linking of K –12 student, teacher, postsecondary, workforce, Perkins career and technical education (CTE), and early childhood data in their SLDSs. Although states and territories that were awarded SLDS grants provide updates on the progress of their data systems, the SLDS Survey formally and systematically collects SLDS capacity information across all states and territories. The information collected by the survey helps the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) evaluate the SLDS Grant Program and improve the technical assistance that the program provides to states and territories in the areas of SLDS development, enhancement, and use.

The SLDS Survey was designed to inventory data systems in several ways. First, the survey asks states and territories to identify the types of data included and available for use in their SLDSs by providing a list of K –12 student data types and asking states and territories to indicate whether each type is operational, in progress, planned, or not planned for inclusion in the SLDS. The survey also asks whether there is automated infrastructure in place to link K –12 student data with data from five other sectors: K –12 teacher, postsecondary, workforce, Perkins CTE, and early childhood data. For each of these sectors, states and territories are asked how data are linked and what types of data within each sector are directly linked to K –12 student data. States and territories also are asked to report how they use data from each sector to inform policy, practices, and decisionmaking based on a provided list of data uses. The response categories are defined at the onset of the survey as the following:

  • Operational— This data type or capability is fully functional and available for its intended users.
  • In Progress— The state is currently building or implementing this data type or capability as part of its SLDS, but it is not yet fully operational.
  • Planned— The state intends to include this data type or capability in its SLDS and has a documented plan and funding source to implement it, but implementation has not begun.
  • Not Planned— The state is currently not planning to include this data type or capability in its SLDS. “Not Planned” should also be marked for items that are not applicable to the SLDS at this time for reasons such as legislative prohibitions or “unadopted” interest.

Sample Frame/Selection

The respondent universe for this survey included state education agencies (SEAs) from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. This was a census of the universe of SEAs eligible to receive grants through the SLDS Grant Program, thus sampling was not used.

Data Collection

The SLDS Survey was distributed to SLDS project directors in each SEA electronically as an e-mail attachment. In addition, NCES invited SLDS contacts to participate in a presurvey informational webinar to share further information about the survey’s purpose and to answer any questions. Survey recruitment began in August 2018, and respondents were asked to complete and return the survey by September 2018. However, completed surveys were still accepted through October 2018.

In 2018, surveys sent to SEA contacts were prepopulated with responses based on the state or territory’s 2017 survey responses. Given the large number of survey items, feedback from the 2017 survey indicated that prepopulated responses would allow respondents to see how questions were answered the previous year and facilitate more consistent responses over time.

Data Processing and Imputation

Survey responses were collated from the returned fillable PDFs into a data file for analysis. No imputation was performed at either the unit or item level. Data cleaning was conducted to ensure that state and territory responses were recorded correctly, taking skip logic into account.

That is, survey respondents were directed to skip certain questions if particular data types or capabilities were not planned in their states or territories. Skipped responses were populated as “not planned” rather than “not answered.” This approach ensured that the “not answered” category represented true missing responses and that those responses were not comingled with “not planned” responses that were missing only because of the skip logic.

Response Rates

Fifty-one of 56 SEAs completed the SLDS Survey, for a response rate of 91 percent. No weighting or imputations were used to address missing data in this survey.

Data Validation

One limitation of this survey is that responses might vary based on who provided the survey response. To address this limitation, the SLDS State Support Team (SST) conducted data validation on survey responses. The SST is a group of data systems experts who provide direct support to states related to the development, management, and use of SLDSs.

ST support is available regardless of whether the requesting state or territory has received an SLDS grant. Data validation was conducted in two ways during data processing and analysis. First, the SST members reviewed survey data for their assigned states and communicated potential errors to the states so that they could review the data and make any needed corrections.

The second step was to provide SST members with aggregate analyses in order to further validate state responses.

Statistical Procedures

The survey data were analyzed to produce aggregate summary data showing the proportion of states and territories reporting that aspects of their SLDSs were operational, in progress, planned, or not planned, or that failed to answer. Because no sampling or weighting was performed, simple percentages were calculated and are presented in this brief.