Using Education Data to Improve Workforce Development

HOLLYWOOD, Fla.—Education data and workforce data are both important for state workforce development efforts, but Dane Stangler believes getting people to recognize that is difficult. 

“How do we persuade people, how do we talk to people about why data is important?” Stangler, vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation, said during a recent CSG policy academy,  “Using Education Data to Improve Workforce Development.” 

“How do we talk to parents, how do we talk to educators, how do we talk to policymakers … and how do we talk to employers as well about why education data and why workforce data, and why the integration of them, is important,” Stangler said.  

Representatives from six states—Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Tennessee—met with education and policy experts from the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, the state-focused education reform nonprofit Foundation for Excellence in Education, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University and state board of education members from several states. 

The goal was to bring together researchers and legislators from several key states to begin a conversation about how to use education data from the research community when enacting and implementing state policy, such as data on charter schools and tracking students through high school graduation and beyond. 

“States are not created equal when it comes to having an interest in these kinds of collaborations,” said Macke Raymond, director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes. 

She said it is important to create a demand for evidence.

“I think there is a very long road ahead of us in terms of cultivating what we call a culture of measurement. We think of this as an implicit civic value, and a part of good policymaking is having the humility to be open to knowing whether or not you’re moving in the right direction,” she said. 

While speaking on success stories and what can be learned from research-state collaborations, Raymond stressed data can help policymakers understand the effectiveness of their programs, and which aspects need to be enhanced or abandoned. She said her own organization, CREDO, works with states to help them “understand the balance between the risk of sharing data and the upside of getting evidence in enough time that they can make actions and decisions with that data.”

Attendees worked together to identify important factors when states and agencies combine education data and workforce development. They include trust, communication, working relationships, relevant quality data, relevance, timeliness and mutual benefit. 

Attendees also identified potential problems, such as finding funding, ensuring that the question is appropriate for the context, maintaining student privacy and keeping politics out of the discussion. 

Regardless of these problems, attendees saw several benefits of using education data, such as the ability to target funding, gains in public trust from the ability to show effectiveness, knowledge of where children end up in the education system and later workforce, the ability to identify needed changes and the ability to provide information to business on available talent of graduates. 

Members of each state team met to review and identify stakeholders and next steps. Common stakeholders identified are other legislators, a state’s governor, K-12 schools, research entities within the state, state universities, state boards of education, and workforce or economic development organizations and agencies within the state. 

All six state groups emphasized the importance of bringing back what they learned to their home states and bringing together important stakeholders to continue the discussion on how to use education data to improve workforce development. 

“In terms of the conversations that we’re having … if we can start to speak in the language of this context, why it’s important to use education data, then hopefully we can get people on the same page and start to build that trust instead of trying to convince people about the privacy or to convince people about this or that,” said Stangler.