Improving CTE Data Quality: Data Systems, Policies and Practices are Fully Aligned Across Agencies and Learner Levels

In an effective career readiness data ecosystem, silos between and within state-level agencies are broken down to allow for data alignment across agencies and learner levels. This is critical to understanding a learner’s experience along the K-12, postsecondary and workforce continuum.

In 2012, New Jersey was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop a statewide longitudinal data system (SLDS) that would create a unified data warehouse between the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (NJOSHE), and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJLWD). This new SLDS would make it easier for the aforementioned agencies to share data amongst each other; link data at the individual learner level; and improve governance, policymaking, and the performance of education and workforce initiatives.

New Jersey used its grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop the New Jersey Education to Earnings Data System (NJEEDS), a SLDS aimed at helping educators, workforce program operators and other stakeholders make data-informed decisions to improve student learning and labor market outcomes. NJEEDS is designed to be a centralized data hub where state secondary, postsecondary and workforce data are securely stored and made available to the associated agencies. NJEEDS is under a multi-state agency governance structure with two governing bodies: 1) the Executive Leadership Council comprised of designees from NJOSHE, NJLWD, NJDOE, and the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority; and 2) the Data Stewards Work Group that is co-chaired by executive level representatives from the three state agencies.

NJEEDS pulls data from various sources including the New Jersey Standards Measurement and Resource Training Data System (NJ SMART), the state’s K-12 data warehouse; Student Unit Record (SURE), the state’s higher education data warehouse; and the state’s unemployment insurance (UI) wage record system. However, New Jersey faced a common challenge for state data systems — linking learner-level data once learners exit the K-12 system. New Jersey found a creative strategy to fill in the gaps and reliably link learner-level data across education levels by using data from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission when a common identifier is not available. NJEEDS uses a complex matching and validation process to ensure that learner records are as complete and accurate as possible. This process has resulted in an 82% match rate.

NJEEDS illustrates what states can do when silos are broken and agencies work together, share data, and find creative solutions to link learner-level records across education and workforce agencies. 

Read the Advance CTE Case Study New Jersey: Education to Earnings Data System to learn more about how New Jersey developed its SLDS to align data across agencies and learner levels. For additional resources on improving the quality and use of career readiness data, check out the Career Readiness Data Quality microsite.  

This is the third edition in a series of Advance CTE data quality blogs to accompany Advance CTE’s latest releases, Career Readiness Data Quality and Use Policy Benchmark Tool and Data Quality Case Studies. For more resources on data and accountability in CTE, please visit the Learning that Works Resource Center.

Brian Robinson

Policy Associate

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