By Gary L. Jones, EH&A Senior Associate
School systems persistently struggle to accurately collect and maintain high quality data. If school leaders viewed data like they view dollars, seated next to the Chief Business Official in superintendents’ cabinets would be the Chief Data Officer.
Those in the school data world talk about the “system of record” meaning that the most current and highest quality data are stored where the data are initially entered and primarily maintained and accessible at the school site or the district office. And yet, in my experience, CALPADS tends to have better data than the local student information system (SIS).
Notice two statements in the FCMAT Fiscal Alert, dated August 2020: “accurate, certified CALPADS data is essential to maintaining an LEA’s fiscal health” and “FCMAT/CSIS recommends establishing a written data management plan that addresses the staffing and coordination necessary to meet certification deadlines.” Between “fiscal health” and “meeting certification deadlines,” FCMAT/CSIS states the need for a written data management plan.
How can it be that data at the state level is often superior to the data at the local level? It is simple. Many districts do not have a data management plan, the plan is flawed, or the plan is not followed. Data reported to the state are collected and reported from multiple local systems, which may share data elements, but may not have consistent rules or validations around each element for the various systems. Data management plans identify the system of record and rules for each data element, as well as who is the final arbiter when conflicts arise.
Data of the highest quality (current and accurate) are the data on which important local decisions should be made. Rather than viewing the CALPADS submission deadlines as hoops to jump through, consider viewing them as vital components of your district’s data management plan. Doing so, will cause the district to improve the quality of the data it certifies and provide the impetus to update and improve the data in all of your information systems, while simplifying and streamlining processes.
When you need advice or assistance with data management and CALPADS submissions, EH&A can help.
Please contact Lisa Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lisa’s years of experience at FCMAT/CSIS makes her an ideal resource when you have technical or training needs in the areas of state reporting and accountability systems, data management and data governance, state and federal privacy and security laws, and student data. Lisa is the Director of Education Solutions Group at MGT of America. Click here for Lisa’s resume of experiences.