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Frequently Asked Questions on the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) Grant Program

Program Background

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) SLDS Competition


What are the goals of the SLDS Grant Program?

The SLDS Grant Program is designed to aid state education agencies (SEAs) in the design, development, and implementation of SLDSs through a competitive discretionary grants process. These data systems securely follow students from early education through the workforce and facilitate the disaggregation, reporting, and analyses of longitudinal data. These data systems help States, districts, schools, and teachers make data-driven decisions to improve student learning, as well as facilitate research to increase student achievement and close achievement gaps.


Where is the SLDS Grant Program located?

The SLDS Grant Program is administered by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES)'s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the U.S. Department of Education. NCES is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations. Additionally, NCES sponsors the National Forum on Education Statistics, which convenes representatives from state education agencies, local education agencies, the federal government, and other organizations to plan, recommend, and implement strategies for building an education data system that will support local, state, and national efforts to improve education.


How do SLDS grants differ from regular grant awards?

SLDS grant are cooperative agreements, which allow NCES to have ongoing relationships with grantees that encourage knowledge sharing and convening among grantees, and allow for easier distribution of technical assistance and other resources and services to grantees. Grantees must fulfill certain duties as part of cooperative agreements, such as attendance and participation in the national grantee conference. All such requirements are outlined in the cooperative agreement sent to grantees after award notification.


How has the SLDS Grant Program changed over time?

The focus of the grant program has evolved over the four rounds of SLDS awards, with early emphasis on K-12 systems expanding to more holistic P-20 (pre-kindergarten through the workforce) systems in recent rounds. Accordingly, data systems funded under the program have also expanded along this trajectory, with foundational K-12 systems being integrated with other data to keep pace with and drive the development of more robust SLDSs that benefit not only K-12, but also its broader partners, through widespread information sharing.


Who can apply for SLDS grants?

State education agencies (SEAs) for the 50 states, DC and territories can apply for SLDS grants, but SEAs are strongly encouraged to work with other state agencies (early childhood, postsecondary, workforce, etc.) to create an SLDS application worthy of funding based on the specific Request for Application requirements.


Who reviews SLDS applications?

Independent peer reviewers, who are not NCES or U.S. Department of Education staff, are selected to evaluate and rate all complete and responsive SLDS applications. The SLDS project team does not evaluate and rate SLDS applications.


How many states have been awarded SLDS grants?

Based on the first three rounds of SLDS awards as of 2009, 41 states and the District of Columbia have received at least one SLDS grant and 12 states have received two grants to date. In November of 2005, the first year of the grant program, IES awarded grants to 14 States. In June of 2007, IES awarded grants to an additional 12 States and the District of Columbia. In March of 2009, IES awarded grants to 27 States. A fourth round of SLDS grants will be awarded in 2010.


What do state SLDSs look like?

SLDSs vary greatly from state to state because they are designed to best serve each state's unique education context and needs. The four SLDS Request for Applications (RFA) list required elements and capacities for SLDSs but do not prescribe how states meet these requirements. For more information on SLDS requirements, see the SLDS webpage on grants.


What are model SLDSs?

The purpose of SLDSs is to best serve the education needs of individual states, so describing a 'model' system is hard to do. Instead, there are 'model' SLDS practices, including strong data governance policies, robust checks on data quality and integrity, practices that ensure the privacy and confidentially of individual students, interoperability between local and state data, use of standard data definitions and formats, and easy generation of data to promote continuous improvement and decision-making.


How do states protect the privacy and confidentiality of individual student and staff records?

States are utilizing a variety of technological and policy solutions to address privacy and confidentiality. For example, states are implementing what's known as role-based or managed access to individual data maintained in data warehouses. Role-based access insures that a teacher can only see individual records for his/her students and aggregate data for other students, and a principal can see individual records for students in his/her schools and aggregate data for all other schools, and so on. In addition, states have developed Memoranda of Understanding for data sharing, access and reporting when working with other agencies, universities or outsides researchers. These documents typically outline who can have access to what data, who must review reports before they are published and how data is to be destroyed at the end of projects. Examples can be found on the LDS share.


What resources are available for grantees?

Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) grantees have access to a variety of support resources such as:

  • LDS Share: Allows education agencies to share helpful documents related to SLDS design, development, implementation and use.
  • Personnel Exchange Network: Enables states to visit other education agencies to learn and share knowledge with colleagues across state lines.
  • State Support Team: Expert assistance from technical consultants & non-governmental organizations is available to grantees.
  • Monthly Grantee Webinars: Monthly webinars showcase grantee states' work, share information, and facilitate Q&A with a broad audience.
  • Grantee Conference: Representatives from grantee project teams are convened to share lessons learned, successful strategies, and general experiences at an annual two-day gathering.



Was the SLDS Grant Program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)?

No. The SLDS program was authorized by the Educational Technical Assistance Act of 2002, Title II of the statute that created the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). SLDS grants were awarded to states in 2006, 2007, and 2009. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 provided another $245 million for SLDS grants to be awarded in 2010.


How does the SLDS program relate to ARRA initiatives such as State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and Race to the Top?

ARRA recognizes the need for longitudinal data to support informed decision-making and continuous improvement at all levels of the education system. In addition to providing funds for a fourth SLDS grant competition, ARRA includes other provisions related to the development and implementation of longitudinal data systems. It requires that States that wish to receive allocations under the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund assure, among other things, that they will establish longitudinal data systems that include the elements set out in the America COMPETES Act. In addition, the Recovery Act requires that Race to the Top funds be awarded to States that have made significant progress in establishing such longitudinal data systems and in meeting other performance objectives related to higher standards and better assessments, teacher effectiveness and equity in teacher distribution, and supporting and turning around low performing schools.


What are new requirements for SLDSs awarded in 2010?

Grants awarded in 2010 will fund the creation of and expansion to P20 longitudinal data systems, which include education data from preschool through postsecondary and workforce information, including employment, wage, and earnings data. In addition to 18 other SLDS requirements in the 2010 RFA PDF File (170 KB), SLDSs must now link student data with teachers, i.e., enabling the matching of teachers and students so that a given student may be matched with the particular teachers primarily responsible for providing instruction in various subjects.


Are the P20 data systems funded by these grants required to be "one system"?

No. Although one of the requirements of the 2010 competition is to link early childhood, K12, postsecondary and workforce data, these data do not have to reside in one place or within one agency. Instead, the actual data system could be a series of linked data systems, as long as these systems achieve the required capabilities listed in the RFA.


More information on the SLDS program is available here.