Governor Robert Bentley, the Alabama Workforce Council (AWC), and the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) are committed to moving forward with plans to develop a P-20W database even without $3.5 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education.
On September 17, fifteen states and American Samoa were awarded an average of $6.5 million for four years to enhance their Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) in accordance with grant priorities. Alabama was one of 43 applicants for the grant.
P-20W refers to the continuum of education beginning with pre-kindergarten through high school and college and then on into the workforce.
While Alabama is one of only three states without a state data repository, only 19 states have established full linkage of P-20W systems, according to the Data Quality Campaign, a national nonprofit working “to empower educators, parents, and policymakers with quality information to make decisions that ensure students achieve their best”.
Establishing the P-20W data system or database was the AWC’s Education and Industry Collaboration Committee’s sole recommendation in a January 2015 report to Bentley.
Bentley directed the AWC to seek federal grant money in this executive order from May.
In response to learning Alabama was not awarded grant funding, the Governor’s Press Secretary Yasamie August said, “The Governor’s Office is evaluating our next steps and we are committed to seeing this data system implemented.”
When asked whether the AWC will pursue development of the SLDS, Martha Legg Miller, spokesperson for the AWC, offered the following in an e-mail response,
“The Alabama Workforce Council was disappointed to learn that Alabama was not selected as one of the SLDS grant recipients, but we continue to believe that the development of a P-20W Statewide Longitudinal Data System is important for the State of Alabama. A longitudinal data system is the best way for business, industry, and education leaders to gain a complete understanding of the state’s education and workforce development programs as they seek to advance educational outcomes and grow their businesses and the state’s economy. Therefore, the Alabama Workforce Council will continue to be supportive of state leaders as they discuss potential options to obtain funding for moving forward with this initiative.”
Here is Alabama’s original grant application, which includes a budget of $553,000 in year one, $796,000 in year two, $996,000 in year three, and $1.14 million in year four.
Letters of support for seeking the grant and developing the database are included in the final section of the application. Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R- Anniston) are among those who furnished letters of support.
Only state education agencies were eligible to apply for funding, so while the project is being spearheaded by the AWC, the ALSDE agreed to serve as fiscal agent for the grant and submitted the grant on Alabama’s behalf.
When asked whether the ALSDE would continue to seek development of the P-20W database, Dr. Melinda Maddox, Assistant State Superintendent for Research, Information, and Data, said, “The Alabama State Department of Education is committed to assisting the Alabama Workforce Council in their work to prepare students for the real world. Through ALSDE’s Plan 2020 and the efforts of the Alabama Workforce Council, we hope to successfully address the progression of students through K-12 school and into the workforce.”
The January report to Bentley stated the goal was to have the SLDS “operational by the end of 2016”. It is unclear how not obtaining federal grant money will affect the timeline.