At the January State Board of Education (SBOE) work session, representatives of the Alabama Workforce Council (AWC) shared what it called “advisory recommendations” that it planned to recommend to the Governor .
Here’s the PDF of the presentation slides. Here’s the full video of the presentation…well worth the time if you want the details.
R.B. Walker, representing Zeke Smith, the chairman of the AWC, said that these recommendations are examples of “ways we can permanently weld together the business community and education community”.
The two recommendations are to create a “feedback loop” and a P20W database.
Martha Miller, an attorney with Balch & Bingham, led the discussion, going through lots and lots of information in a (relatively) short period of time.
The Feedback Loop
This refers to the ability of business and industry and education providers to adjust training and education programs to meet workforce needs.
Not a lot of discussion on this one, and no details as to whom would be responsible for adjusting which programs at which time or how often the loop might force adjustments.
A P20W database contains data pieces and bits of information on students from pre-Kindergarten through K-12 through secondary and post-secondary into the workforce. It connects various agencies serving the different groups of students and workers through an interoperable data system.
Alabama is the only southeastern state that does not currently have a P20W database.
Miller said the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) houses the most data on student progress and achievement, but it should be linked with other agency data in order to be more useful.
The subject of data privacy and security, along with how data is used, is a hot topic across the country.
Miller made it clear that establishing this database wouldn’t increase the amount of data being created, and would allow the data to be used more effectively to better student outcomes.
The only time identifiable data would be shared is with education leadership and with researchers who have been approved to run studies, she said.
All other releases of data would only be aggregated data, with no personally identifiable information (PII) being shared.
The following images depict the answers to the basic questions of why we need it, who will benefit, and how do we do it.
The cost is estimated to be $3 million initially, and ongoing operations are expected to be $700,000 per year, with five full-time staff members.
Miller said that the governance structure is still being developed, but that thoughts now are that a Chief Policy Officer will head the department, but exactly where these folks would reside has not been decided.
The AWC has identified the State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) grant offered through the U.S. Department of Education as a possible source of funding. Miller said the grant application details had not yet been released for this next funding cycle, but that should happen soon.
Alabama is one of three states that did not receive any grant funding to develop a SLDS.
There are other possibilities for funding, including state-appropriated funding through the legislature.
State board members had a lot of questions about what would be expected of the ALSDE with respect to the SLDS grant and about the accountability for the grant money, considering the ALSDE would be the grantee or fiscal agent.
Beginning at 37 minutes, 35 seconds into the video above, board member Mary Scott Hunter fleshes out how the AWC expects the ALSDE to handle and be accountable and audit the use of the grant funds.
Miller said there would be a clear delineation of what is expected among the various agencies participating in the development of the database to avoid any possibility of misuse of the funds.
Board member Stephanie Bell expressed her concern that if the ALSDE is the named grantee, then folks will hold the ALSDE accountable for whatever the database ultimately holds and for what purposes it is ultimately used.
Both Miller and Walker re-iterated that the AWC is not recommending the ALSDE go after the SLDS grant, just that it is a possible source of funding to develop the database.
When board member Ella Bell asked whether families would have the ability to “opt out” of having information that is collected be a part of the database, Miller’s response was “that could be explored”.
Miller reminded the board that right now, parents don’t have the option of opting out of recording attendance of their child in public school or recording test grades for a child…that information is already there.
The end product, depicted below, should result in, among other things, better reporting to the public about outcomes for students.
What Are the Next Steps?
At the work session, Walker indicated that the AWC would share definitive recommendations of the AWC to the Governor before the end of January. No word on what those final recommendations were.
The recommendations are then shared with the legislature, who will determine which of the recommendations are acted upon.
It is unclear whether either of these recommendations were included in the AWC’s presentation to the Governor on Wednesday.
The path to a brighter and more productive Alabama rests in the ability to educate and train our existing and future workforce.
— Gov. Robert Bentley (@GovernorBentley) February 4, 2015
— BEA Alabama (@BEAAlabama) February 4, 2015
— R.B. Walker (@RdotBdot) February 4, 2015
— Manufacture Alabama (@ManufactureAla) February 4, 2015