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Education Data Systems: A Systematic Look at State Practices Related to Researcher Access

Elizabeth N. Farley-Ripple, Jesse Sheeks, Amanda B. Jennings, Andrew Millin

June 2017
As expectations for research and data to inform educational decision making continue to grow under federal policy, state longitudinal data systems (SLDS) are in place in nearly all states and offer a unique resource for generating evidence to support improvement efforts. However, little is known about whether and how researchers are able to access these data. State processes and procedures for granting researcher access may support or impede the generation of timely and relevant research.  In this paper, we present findings of a content analysis of state education agency (SEA) websites that explain those processes and procedures.  We find great variability in SEA approaches to supporting user requests, transparency of the process, data privacy and security, guidelines for use, and available data. Results are intended to launch a productive dialogue on these issues and promote more consistent and coherent policies that promote evidence-based decision-making, and, ultimately, stronger ties between research, policy, and practice in order to collectively improve educational opportunities and outcomes for all students. Keywords: Education, data use, knowledge use, knowledge utilization, decisionmaking, data systems Elizabeth N. Farley-Ripple, Liz Farley-Ripple, Jesse Sheeks, Amanda B. Jennings, Andrew Millin