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Aug 30 -- The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), within the U.S. Department of Education, is requesting clearance to continue the Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) Survey collection, which is intended to provide insight on State and U.S. territory SLDS capacity for automated linking of K–12, teacher, postsecondary, workforce, career and technical education (CTE), adult education, and early childhood data. NCES invites comments to OMB by September 29, 2023.

Historically, SLDS has collected information annually from State Education Agencies (SEAs) and has helped inform NCES ongoing evaluation and targeted technical assistance efforts to enhance the quality of the SLDS Program's support to States regarding systems development, enhancement, and use. This new request is to conduct all activities related to SLDS 2023–25, continuing usage of the Qualtrics information collection tool initiated in the 2023 collection. The appendices include updated communications, webinars, and Qualtrics instrument screenshots related to the SLDS 2023–25 collection. While minor adjustments were made to questions and language, the primary change proposed in this package is a shift from an annual to a biennial collection. Nationwide, SLDS system capacity changes frequently (ex. Infrastructure enhancements, evolving P20W agency collaborations, State legislation impacts, etc.), but analysis demonstrates that the COVID–19 pandemic stagnated the work to some extent. The 2019–20 Statistics in Brief and accompanying data file (anticipated May 2023 publication release [but not yet published]) indicate very little change in results over the two-year period, indicating that shifting to an every-other-year collection would allow for more timely releases of data, with no adverse effect on the integrity of the information.
Since 2005, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded approximately $826 million in 142 grants to State Education Agencies to enable them to implement and enhance their SLDS systems. Additional competitive funding was expended prior to the close of FY20 (awarded as FY19 competition and funds), and an additional grant opportunity in FY23. The Department continues to need to maintain a clear and formal means of summarizing and communicating the status of these systems across all States and Territories to: 1) evaluate current but everchanging needs for further systems development; 2) provide targeted technical assistance to States; and 3) accurately reflect progress on the development and use of statewide longitudinal data systems.

Survey results will continue to inform:
-- Future grant rounds for the SLDS grant program and technical assistance support;
-- Program offices in the Department of Education, Department of Labor, and Health and Human Services, in addition to external stakeholders;
-- State development and support efforts; and
-- Public knowledge of State capacity to link and use longitudinal data.

State information about State capacity for data linkages and use is vital to ensure that program dollars are targeted both for grant funding and for technical assistance development. As federal funding becomes increasingly more competitive (with SLDS infrastructure a reemerging priority), we must continue to have a clear sense of SLDS progress across the United States so that federal resources can be utilized and offered most efficiently and effectively. Prior to the development of the SLDS Survey, the SLDS grant program was responsible for providing OMB with up-to-date state capacity indicators on a quarterly basis, with the shortcoming that any changes or updates to these data primarily reflect information from active grantee states only. The report was produced based on continual communication with active grantees that allows the SLDS Program Officers to remain informed of these states’ systems’ capacity, progress, and constraints. Moreover, active grantees are responsible for providing summary reports on at least an annual basis, and this reporting validated assumptions and conversations that took place throughout the year between grantee states and SLDS Program Officers. Reporting for states without active grants had been only ad hoc. The SLDS Survey has now formalized the data collection processes to respond to these indicators and made it easier for the SLDS program to reach States without active grants.  
There continues to be growing interest in SLDS capacity across the United States both internally within the Department of Education, among States and U.S. territories, and across agencies with common and shared interests (Department of Labor’s Workforce Data Quality Initiative, for example). The SLDS program regularly responds to ad-hoc questions and requests regarding State capacity for data linking and use, including, for example:

-- How many States can link:
     teacher preparation programs of teachers to student outcomes for students taught by those teachers (Title II);
     K12 and postsecondary data (Performance metric, OPEPD);
     K12, postsecondary, and workforce data (Performance metric, OPEPD, Department of Labor, Workforce Data Quality Campaign, White House Workforce Convening);
     K12 and early learning data (Performance metric, Early Learning Challenge Technical Assistance, Office of Special Education Programs, US Department of Health and Human Services); and

-- How are States using data (Performance metric, US Department of Labor).

States and Territories themselves often seek information about which States are linking and using data, and what their processes entail. The SLDS Program facilitates States’ efforts to share promising practices with each other. This enables States to more easily collaborate, learn from each other, share resources with each other, and avoid duplicative work in the presence or absence of SLDS federal funds.

The SLDS program also receives questions about State capacity from the public, which is interested in learning which data are available at the State level and how the data might be accessed. A Statistics in Brief is released post-analysis of each SLDS Survey collection, and includes descriptive statistics, metrics and use cases showing data-linking and data-use capacity by State. Beginning with the 2018 data Statistics in Brief, interested users will be able to quickly ascertain which States have the capacity to link data across sectors (for example, which States and Territories can link K12, postsecondary, and workforce data) through the accessibility of an accompanying data file. The Statistics in Briefs also include examples of State data use capacity, for example, which States are providing feedback reports so that policymakers at the local level understand how their high school graduates are faring in postsecondary education or the workforce.

While the SLDS program has now developed and codified a recurring process for the first IES-approved Statistics in Brief for two collections, formalized IES Review greatly impacts the timelines of release. The request to move to a biennial collection moving forward allows the opportunity to place more resources into timely releases of accompanying Statistic in Brief and data files. As a result of the review delays, 2019 and 2020 Survey collections have been truncated into one Statistics in Brief detailing findings from both collections, with two data files representative of each annual collection. NCES is planning to take the same approach for the 2021 and 2022 SLDS Survey collections, as there continue to be challenges moving through the IES Review process, though data has been collected and is available. This will also allow for more in depth and longitudinal analysis of collected annual data throughout non-collection year(s).

SLDS Program: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/
SLDS Survey analysis 2021: https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2021126
SLDS Survey analysis 2019: https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2020157
NCES submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202305-1850-004 Click IC List for information collection instrument, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this webpage.
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-18538

For AEA members wishing to submit comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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