What Schools Can Learn From State Education Systems About Delivering The Best Experience

In a competitive landscape like postsecondary education, how can schools optimize students’ education experiences even further? By utilizing broad data systems that collect information spanning the entire student journey, from application to placement, and examining the data to understand which areas of the student journey can be improved.

Broad data systems have already been adopted on the state education level and have proven very effective. In fact, 42 states in our country have longitudinal data systems that track student data all the way from preschool to the workforce. 

Longitudinal data systems have enabled states to develop a much broader overview of the education system, as well as derive deeper insights. States have been able to adjust the alignment of their education systems to their workforce needs, deliver greater insight to the public for more informed decisions about where to get an education and what to study, and help educators and legislators answer pressing policy questions.

Take Minnesota, for example. Its educational data system, the Statewide Longitudinal Education Data System (SLEDS), has helped educators measure the effectiveness of current programs and design targeted improvement strategies to help students succeed. SLEDS has also allowed Minnesota to identify the most viable pathways for individuals to achieve successful outcomes in their education and their careers, inform decisions to support and improve education and workforce policy and practice, and help create a more seamless education and workforce system. Interestingly enough, Minnesota has a state unemployment rate below the national average (3.2% vs. 3.8% as of March 2019). Tracking student data from preschool to the workforce via SLEDS could have a positive correlation with this statistic.

By taking a step back and analyzing the entire education to career process, Minnesota and other states have been able to improve the education they offer and prepare students to enter and become a successful part of their workforces.

Individual schools can take a similar approach to enhance the educational experience for their students. Many institutions already track data using systems such as SISs and LMSs, but that data often isn’t analyzed together. By interpreting the resulting data in isolation by system, insight into a student’s academic journey is formed using an incomplete picture. If schools could link the data together and analyze the data as a complete set, they could achieve a better oversight of the student journey and could identify areas for improvement. They’d have the ability to monitor every factor that influences outcomes, including student behavior, institutional policy, and departmental outcomes, just to name a few. Knowing how separate factors affect student outcomes enables schools to identify areas for improvement to deliver the best education experience possible.

Equipping schools with a greater knowledge of the student journey and increased insight into which policies resulted in the best outcomes would benefit everyone involved in the education process. Students can use outcomes data provided by schools to make more informed decisions about which institution to attend and/or which area of study to pursue to land their desired job after graduation. Institutions can refine their processes to maximize student retention and graduation rates and find ways to increase operational efficiency.

Using a broad spectrum of data to paint a bigger picture about operations and student outcomes will provide institutions with the necessary information to create a better educational experience. If entire states can do it, smaller organizations, like postsecondary institutions, can use the same concept to better understand their students and take measures to deliver an even higher-quality experience!

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