Most States Track Students From Pre-K to the Workforce. Will California Fall in Line?

Children of a welcome class for immigrants from Syria, Poland and Romania attend a German lesson at the Katharina-Heinroth primary school in Berlin, Germany, September 11, 2015. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch - RTSLVP
DECEMBER 7, 2018

By Nadine Sebai

California Is 1 Of Only 8 States Without A System To Track Students from Pre-K To The Workforce. Why?

California Governor-elect Gavin Newsom praised his “cradle-to-career” education plan throughout his campaign. One of his goals is to establish a data system that tracks kids from early childhood through college and into the workforce.

It’s been a topic of conversation for more than a decade, yet a system still doesn’t exist. California is one of only eight states without a data systemthat can help answer questions about how policy affects students in the long-run.

Hans Johnson, director of the Higher Education Center at the Public Policy Institute of California, moderated a panel last week on the issue. He says right now there’s no way to know how many University of California eligible students don’t go to those universities, or even how many don’t apply at all.

“I can’t tell you how many end up at a community college. I can’t tell you how many go out of state,” Johnson said. “I can’t tell you how many don’t go to college at all. [These are] basic fundamental questions.”

Colleen Moore, assistant director at EdInsights, an education research center, said the biggest barrier is the political will to implement the system.

“They’re not technical,” Moore said. “There’s plenty of people in this state who know how to do it.”

Natasha Collins, an assembly committee staffer who provides analysis on education spending, says there are some technical barriers around governance, student privacy, and security concerns. Unlike California, many states with integrated data systems have a governance body charged with monitoring and advising their systems.

Collins agrees, however, the current administration has been reluctant to engage in conversations about creating the data system despite researchers and educators pressing for one. Lawmakers introduced laws in the past to develop a data system, but they either got stuck in the Legislature or were vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“Incoming Gov. Newsom has indicated on multiple forums his support for this comprehensive data system,” Collins said. “So it seems like this topic we’ve been talking about it for over a decade is ripe.”

Researchers estimate implementing the system could cost up to $10 million.