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Developments to Watch: Common Education Data Standards (CEDS)

Over the last few years, the federal government has invested over a half-billion dollars in the development of statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDSs). (To learn more, see the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) SLDS Grant Program page.) The key concept behind these systems is to allow for the tracking of individual student data throughout students' educational careers. This would provide a much greater base of information for research and analysis to improve education policy, especially to the degree that data are comparable across education sectors within a state and between states, assuming important privacy and security concerns can be resolved in harmony with pre-existing policies (e.g., the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA).

To further enhance the research value of SLDSs, NCES has chartered a Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) project. CEDS involves representatives of K-12 and postsecondary education agencies and organizations in collaboratively developing "a common vocabulary for a core subset of data elements that exist in multiple data systems." Examples cited include student demographics, program participation, enrollment, and course-level information. The ultimate adoption of CEDS by any agencies or institutions is intended to be voluntary and consistent with the goal of effectively sharing high-quality data in a useful form across relevant organizations as needed.

As interest in incorporating higher education student data in SLDSs grows, developments such as CEDS may play a key role in determining the basis on which that occurs and how it impacts institutional data systems and related policies. Version 1.0 of the proposed standards is currently available for review, along with the community feedback received thus far.

The CEDS stakeholder group met recently to discuss the next iteration of the standards based on external input and other factors. EDUCAUSE Policy Analysis and Advocacy will continue to track that process and share information with our members as it becomes available.