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Arkansas Department of Education: Securing Three Statewide Longitudinal Data System Grants

Arkansas educators review data from participating schools, using the state's longitudinal data system.

Since 2005, with help from Metis Associates, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) has applied for and been awarded three grants—totaling $18 million—from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to build and expand a statewide longitudinal data system (SLDS). As authorized by the Educational Technical Assistance Act of 2002, the SLDS Grant Program has awarded competitive grants to states to help them better manage and more effectively use individual student data for decision-making and reporting—ultimately to support learning and achievement by all students.

Throughout these grant development efforts, Metis worked closely with ADE administrators to design and prepare the grant applications. The requirements outlined in the initial IES Request for Applications were comprehensive and demanding, addressing the widest range of technical and functional SLDS capabilities. In assisting the ADE to build the data system, Metis conducted in-depth research into the state’s K–12 information systems environment, national standards, and best practices in the field, and reviewed the status of work that was already under way to address many of these grant objectives.

The success with the initial IES application prompted ADE to ask Metis to help it seek additional rounds of funding in 2008 and 2009 on its behalf. Metis helped the ADE secure a second three-year grant of $4.9 million from the IES to enable Arkansas to extend the system’s data scope from kindergarten through age 20 and focus on improved strategies to help teachers and administrators use these data to enhance teaching and learning. In 2009, with Metis’s help, the ADE secured an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act–funded three-year grant from the IES that added an additional $9.8 million, enabling the ADE to extend the data system’s utility through a broad range of new initiatives that built on the foundations that had been established. The ADE has used this funding to create a strong culture of data-driven decision-making in the state that is based on sharing student information from K–12 through higher education and into the workforce years, as well as deeply engaging the research community in these efforts.