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Arkansas Department of Education: Building and Supporting a Statewide Longitudinal Data System

Metis provided technical assistance to the Arkansas Department of Education in implementing its federally funded State Longitudinal Data System. The system collects and analyzes data on young people from kindergarten through age 20, supporting decision making at all levels of the education enterprise.

Since 2005, with help from Metis Associates, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) applied for and was awarded three highly competitive 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.

In addition to helping the state secure three 3-year grants in 2005, 2008, and 2009, Metis information management staff have provided extensive assistance to the ADE with management of the SLDS grant-supported system development and implementation activities. With funds from the first award, Metis played a key role in helping the ADE define an IT architectural strategy involving coordinated use of IBM/Cognos data-warehouse technologies and a third-party educational data-management solution. This platform gave educators at all levels of the school system access to longitudinal views of individual student progress over time in addition to many other important and innovative features.

With IES funds from the 2009 and 2010 awards, the ADE and Metis managed the development of a major expansion of the data system, which strengthened its technical foundation to enhance the system’s data-driven decision making and cross-agency data-sharing abilities.

Throughout the three grant periods, Metis also served as the SLDS evaluator, measuring its impact on students, teachers, and schools. The evaluation team collaborated with ADE staff to develop an “implementation scale,” composed of three types of data: the volume of systems usage, teachers’ participation in professional development related to use of the systems and data-driven decision making, and support from administrators. This scale was then used to identify the degree of SLDS implementation and to analyze the relationship between levels of implementation and student achievement. Metis evaluators also assessed the quality of data-driven decision making practiced by teachers, school and district administrators, educational cooperatives that provide services to the schools, and state-level staff.