Curry Researchers Among First With Access to VLDS

The impacts of Virginia’s K-12 and higher education systems are now open to an unprecedented level of analysis thanks to a new comprehensive data collection system, and members of the Curry School’s education policy faculty are among the select few to gain a first crack at the data.

The Virginia Longitudinal Data System, launched in 2012, links data from four state agencies: the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Community College System, the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia, and the Virginia Employment Council.

The system was developed to enable examination of student progress from early childhood to postsecondary and beyond. Virginia was one of 20 states to receive a federal Longitudinal Data Systems Grant in 2010, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

To provide proof-of-concept regarding types of analyses and conclusions that might be developed from the data, the U.Va. Center for Education Policy and Workforce Competitiveness is partnering with the Harris Leadership Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University. They are collaborating with the state agencies in a pilot of the system, says Jim Wyckoff, professor of education policy at Curry and director of the Center.

Although data in the system is scrubbed of all personal identification, the VDLS can tie together K-12 data such as students’ Standards of Learning test scores to their progression into higher education and the workforce.

The system will also allow researchers to match graduates of the state’s teacher preparation programs with their scores on the Virginia licensure test, their placement in Virginia classrooms, and their subsequent students’ Standards of Learning test scores.

Wyckoff, along with Center faculty fellows Dan Player, Heather Wathington, and Luke Miller, are initially heading up two lines of research using VLDS data. They will explore how the data will enable them to inform and improve teacher preparation in Virginia, and they will examine college outcomes data from students who took college courses while in high school.

The Center was established in 2010 and brings together scholars from across the university in the fields of education, public policy, sociology, economics and law to provide rigorous and timely research that can inform the design of education policy.

Wyckoff came to the Curry School in 2008 from the University at Albany in New York. He developed such productive relationships with education officials in New York City that the center continues to conduct research projects using public school data there.

Center faculty are also collaborating with policymakers in the District of Columbia Public Schools to examine the effects of IMPACT, its teacher assessment system, on teacher quality and student achievement in DCPS schools.

by Lynn Bell