AERA Webinar Highlights Researcher and State Agency Partnerships for SLDS Research Use
AERA Webinar Highlights Researcher and State Agency Partnerships for SLDS Research Use

July 2020

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On June 30, AERA and the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) team at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) held a webinar, “Collaborating to Support Education Research,” to highlight partnerships between state departments of education and researchers using SLDS data. The webinar, which drew more than 300 researchers from universities, think tanks, program evaluation organizations, and state education agencies, is the second in a series highlighting the new Institute of Education Sciences (IES) competition, Using Longitudinal Data to Support State Education Policymaking.

AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine kicked off the webinar by pointing to SLDS data as “a national treasure,” noting, “The investment that has been made in the development of high-quality data systems appropriate for analytic work drives knowledge and drives evidence-based policymaking.”

Nancy Sharkey, senior program officer at NCES, discussed some of the work the SLDS program has enabled. In particular, she described how the FY 2015 SLDS award cycle fostered the types of strong connections between research, policy analysis, and evaluation that are being encouraged in the new IES grant competition. 

The webinar featured three states where education department officials have leveraged the SLDS systems developed with the support of SLDS grants and the capacity of collaborating researchers to assist in answering questions on each state’s research agenda. These featured partnerships had several common themes: (a) a long-range view of collaboration, (b) a mission shared by the state education agencies and researchers, and (c) a focus on addressing policy-relevant research questions. 

Jessica Cunningham, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Statistics, noted the state’s long-standing efforts to develop a robust longitudinal data structure, and the role of a governing board in developing a research agenda that is reviewed and updated every two years. Genia Toma and Rajeev Darolia, both at the University of Kentucky, spoke about the history of the partnership between their university and the Kentucky Department of Education, as well as highlighting research using Kentucky’s SLDS to examine postsecondary and workforce outcomes aligned to the state’s policy goals.

Kevin Schaaf, director of research and analysis at the Tennessee Department of Education, and Matthew Ronfeldt at the University of Michigan, discussed their research partnership, which focuses on educator preparation and talent management. The partnership has value to both the state agency and the research team as it allows researchers to be involved in designing the training of mentor-teachers and enables the Tennessee Department of Education to inform research questions.

Carl Frederick, a research analyst at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), detailed the importance of support by NCES for several SLDS grants and the importance of state funding to the continued development of the state’s system. Frederick noted that ongoing collaboration between DPI and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research has most recently highlighted evaluation needs through three organizations: the Wisconsin Evaluation Collaborative, The Network, and Socially Responsible Evaluation in Education. As in Kentucky, the Wisconsin DPI puts together a research agenda every two years, leading to new opportunities for researchers to take on new projects of interest to the state.

This webinar is a very good introduction to working relationships between state staffs and researchers and how to develop them to advance important research on SLDS data. It was planned, along with an earlier one held on June 11, as background for the new IES grant program Using Longitudinal Data to Support State Education Policymaking, which was accepting applications through July 30. A video recording and slides from the webinar are available on the AERA website.



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