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Harnessing the Power of Data for California’s Educational and Economic Recovery

June 3, 2021 | Linked Learning Alliance

The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound effects on our society. In addition to presenting new challenges, the pandemic has exacerbated existing educational inequities for students of color and those from low-income households. As California moves toward economic recovery, it is more critical than ever to understand the educational and youth development strategies that keep all students on a path to college, career, and life success from the moment they begin their educational journeys.

We have reason to be optimistic. Public investment in education and workforce development is at an all-time high. We have a unique opportunity to drive more equitable outcomes across education segments—recognizing and working urgently to eliminate the gaps and siloed activities between our early care and education (ECE), K–12, postsecondary, and workforce systems, as well as the additional barriers that derail young peoples’ progress.

Faced with the need to build a competitive workforce that can fill the jobs of the future and dramatically improve the quality of our state’s education system, California’s new Cradle-to-Career (C2C) data system will prove central to our state’s educational and economic recovery. Governor Gavin Newsom has already allocated $15 million in his proposed 2021-22 budget to continue the development of this longitudinal data system. We applaud the proposed investment and encourage state legislators to fully fund the development of the system, this year and beyond. It will provide tools that that can help families, educators and communities track individual student progress over time as they transition through educational segments, from birth/pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, to postsecondary education, and on into the workforce. It will provide timely and critical data that can help policymakers make informed decisions that drive our economic recovery and future growth; college and career planning tools for students and families; and early warning indicators for educators to monitor students’ engagement and help inform timely interventions.

We are particularly energized by the C2C data system’s potential to increase alignment between our K–12 education, postsecondary, and workforce systems. Our economy is best served when all of our students are provided a scaffolded educational journey that prepares them not only for the jobs of today, but for the careers of the future.

As leaders in the Linked Learning movement, we know that the key to an economic recovery that benefits all Californians lies in what we call the “power of plus.” Most, specifically, the C2C data system has the potential to catalyze much needed dialogue and collaboration between the K-12, postsecondary, and workforce systems to ensure that the high school and postsecondary experience is as coherent and supportive as possible. High-quality information and insights gleaned from the C2C data system will serve as a strong foundation for where educators, families, and industry partners want schools to go in the future.

We have also witnessed firsthand what is possible when you bring educators, families, and industry partners together to dig in and explore data. It empowers deliberate and shared action at the intersection of K-12, college, and career, which is especially needed right now to keep all students linked to their own sense of purpose and to their aspirations for the future of California.

Using reliable and consistent information to drive decisions across the education and workforce sectors - a transformation that was not even conceivable at the onset of the Linked Learning movement over a decade ago—is now an attainable goal. Thanks to the hard work and leadership of educators, elected officials, and industry partners, there is strong momentum behind a robust C2C data system that catalyzes continuous improvement at every level—from individual students to systems as a whole. We cannot afford to let up when it comes to excellence and equity for students, families, and communities. Let’s use data as a tool to drive our shared economic recovery and prosperity together.

David Rattray
President & CEO, Unite LA
Chair, Board of Directors, Linked Learning Alliance

Roneeta Guha
Vice President, Strategy and Impact, Linked Learning Alliance

David and Roneeta serve as members of the Practice and Operations Advisory Group for the C2C Data System.