Hearing today on important data bill

An important bill improving the state’s new education data systems will get a hearing today in the Senate. SBX5 3 (Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto) would expand the CALPADS student longitudinal data system down to preschool and up through community colleges and four-year public universities. It also would ensure that researchers get access to the data.

Educated Guest

(I’ve invited John F to fill in for me today. John is … and his book is()

by John Fensterwald

In the next six weeks, the Legislature, at Gov. Schwarzenegger’s insistence, will consider bills that would make the state more competitive for Race to the Top grants. Some of those actions, particularly those dealing with parental choice and sanctions for the worst-performing schools, will be hard-fought.

But passing legislation in one area, dealing with the state’s new data systems, shouldn’t be. The state should be moving ahead, regardless of Race to the Top incentives.

Today, there will be a legislative hearing on SBx5-2, sponsored by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who has been pushing for an effective statewide longitudinal data system for years.

The latest victory occurred last month when Gov. Schwarzenegger signed another Simitian bill, SB 19, which removed a biggest barrier preventing the state from applying for Race to the Top funds. It eliminated the restriction preventing using  data on students collected in the state systems to evaluate and pay teachers.

Encouraging  research  is critical for the Legislature to make wise policy decisions.

SBx5-2 is just as important. It would allow the state Department of Education to give researchers access to the two data systems, CALPADS (California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System), which collects data on students, and CALTIDES (California Longitudinal Education Data Systems), which collects data on teachers. The details of who would have access, under what conditions, to ensure privacy and security, still have to be worked out. But encouraging  research  is critical for the Legislature to make wise policy decisions.

The bill also affirms that data systems will extend from preschool through higher education, as is the case in states, like Florida, which effectively use student data. (Florida has workplace data, too.) Currently, California’s system is only K-12. Community colleges and universities need access to full information, beyond transcripts, on students who are admitted into their systems.

Integrating the state’s and various colleges and university computers will be complex. The state is hoping to get $20 million out of the $250 million in stimulus money the Obama administration has designated for computer systems, and to use it to create a K-20 data system.

Passing SBx5-2 affirm the state’s prior commitment to the federal government in receiving stimulus money and put it in a better position for the next round. Children Now is one of many organizations supporting the bill.

Author: John Fensterwald - Educated Guess

John Fensterwald, a journalist at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, edits and co-writes "Thoughts on Public Education in California" (www.TOPed.org), one of the leading sources of California education policy reporting and opinion, which he founded in 2009. For 11 years before that, John wrote editorials for the Mercury News in San Jose, with a focus on education. He worked as a reporter, news editor and opinion editor for three newspapers in New Hampshire for two decades before receiving a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1997 and heading West shortly thereafter. His wife is an elementary school teacher and his daughter attends the University California at Davis.

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