One more stab at P-20 data structureNext step would be joint powers authority
Call him Senator Sisyphus. With two years before he’s termed out, Sen. Joe Simitian keeps pushing against inertia and bureaucratic resistance to create an effective education database that can track students from preschool to the workplace.
Other states without Silicon Valley savvy have already done so. California committed to establish such a system when it agreed to accept nearly $5 billion in federal stimulus money two years ago. The failure to make progress may have cost the state a chance for Race to the Top money last year.
The problem is unrelated to troubles with CALPADS, the K-12 data system that’s a year behind schedule. The immediate issue is governance: getting all of the disparate parts of California education – the Department of Education, which oversees K-12; CSU; UC; the chancellor’s office of the community college system; the Commission on Teacher Credentialing; and the California Postsecondary Education Commission – to share the data that they’ve already compiled.
Simitian, a Democrat from Palo Alto, has sponsored bills that have moved the process along: one authorizing a database on teachers, which will track education, training, and classroom success; another clearing the way for researchers to do their work. Two years ago, he proposed a governance structure for a P-20 (preschool to workplace) database, but it was changed to a working group, led by the Legislative Analyst’s Office. It didn’t manage to get too far. As Simitian puts it, “One of challenges is everyone wants to be in charge but no one wants to be accountable.”
But the working group’s report did recommend creating a joint powers authority, with representatives from the education system, the governor’s office, and the Legislature, that would establish procedures and regulate data sharing. It would hire its own staff and operate independently – and thus potentially override turf wars.
Simitian’s SB 885 would create such a joint powers authority.
There is already precedence for cooperation in the California Partnership for Achieving Student Success (Cal-PASS), in which some K-12 and higher ed institutions have been sharing data for research for more than a decade. But Cal-PASS, while useful, is voluntary.
Simitian says a data system is essential, in asking for additional money for education, to assure taxpayers that dollars are well spent. “We need to make informed choices,” he said, to answer questions like, Did our Head Start investment pay off in college enrollment? Did community college programs lead to employment? Should a school district invest new dollars in teacher training or smaller classes?
There’s no money now for linking the approximately 150 databases that would comprise the P-20 system or for training the people to run it. But creating the governance agreements would put the state in a better position to apply for federal money and move ahead when there are dollars. The state lost out in competition for $250 million in federal data grants two years ago.
The first hearing on SB 885 will be April 27.