How California’s Cradle-to-Career Data System is Taking the Lead

Knowledge is power. That’s why, for years, state education agencies across the United States have built longitudinal data systems to track student enrollment, transfers, financial aid, test scores , demographic traits and other data points – albeit in an anonymized format – to measure progress and inform policy. . Professionally known as P-20W systems, short for Preschool to Workforce, or “Cradle to Career,” these data systems have taken different forms in different states. Although California was among the last to build one, a recent case study from the national nonprofit Data Quality Campaign (DQC) argues that the Golden State’s approach involving data governance, policy advocates , legislation and investment is one that other state leaders should emulate.

A success factor highlighted in the study is the need for high-level political leadership to support these initiatives, which California had in Governor Gavin Newsom. The state began work on its P-20W data system early in its administration in 2019 with the Cradle-to-Career Data System Act, establishing and funding metrics and participants to be involved in the process of planning, and creating a responsible public working group to design the system.

In 2021, the task force made recommendations to lawmakers, and lawmakers passed additional legislation to affirm the creation of the data system. As described in the DQC case study, this law codified and described six things: the data system itself, its administration through open meetings, the composition of a 21-member board of directors to oversee the Office of Cradle-to-Career Data, a structure by which the board could define roles and responsibilities in data collection and reporting, the creation of two 16-member advisory boards to engage other community stakeholders and privacy policies.


Mary Ann Bates, executive director of the Office of Cradle-to-Career Data, said Government Technology that the P-20W data system is still under development, with an expected launch date of 2026. She and Ben Chida, Newsom’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, agreed that adopting a targeted legislation for the project.

“Knowing that we’re relatively late in the game here and building a data system like this, it’s a tremendous opportunity to learn from what has already been tried in other states,” said Bates. GovTech. “A reflection on my part is that the fact that the legislation itself was very specific and clear on the governance structure of this data system, I think, is really important for the way we do our work and to ensure that the focus is on inclusivity and…community engagement…helps students and families in a really practical way.

Besides political support and codifying the project into law so that its purpose and governance are clear, the DQC case study highlights several other things that California has done well. One is substantial funding — in this case, $170 billion, according to Chida, including $10.26 million for the Cradle-to-Career Data Office recently passed by the state legislature as part of the budget. of the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

The rest consists of various measures to build public trust: using long-standing relationships with national and community partners, using committees and virtual tools for community engagement, obtaining feedback to prioritize equity and inclusion, and thorough documentation for transparency.

Chida said the data system budget is a way to show how seriously the Newsom administration takes the digital transformation of education taking place in the state. Chida said there was general consensus on the importance of data sharing and collaboration, but there was work to be done to make the system work.

“There was still a lot of work to do to build trust and feel like we could do it safely without having massive data breaches or being inappropriate or something like that,” he said. “And that’s why we feel really good now because we’ve done this hard work and we’ve built this confidence. Even though we’ve taken the longer road, I think it was actually the most fruitful and that it will ultimately lead to the most valuable change.

Giovanni Albanese Jr. is a staff writer for the Center for Digital Education. He has covered business, politics, breaking news and professional football during his 15+ year journalism career. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Salem State University in Massachusetts.

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Andrew Westrope is the editor of the Center for Digital Education. Previously, he was an editor for Government Technology and was previously a journalist and community newspaper editor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.

See more stories by Andrew Westrope

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