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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS)?

The Pennsylvania Information Management System (PIMS) is the commonwealth's statewide longitudinal data system (SLDS) for the collection and reporting of unit-level educational data from preschool to high school and beyond. PIMS serves many purposes, including:

  • Meeting current state and federal reporting requirements;
  • Improving education decision-making using high quality data and decision support tools;
  • Providing longitudinal tracking of education progress over time and across local education agencies (LEAs); and
  • Reporting timely and accurate education data through standardized and ad hoc reporting capabilities.

What is the SLDS grant?

On March 12, 2015, the U.S. Department of Education invited state education agencies to apply for the Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) grant to help states use their SLDS data to inform educational improvements in critical areas. States had the ability to propose projects to address up to two of the following data use priorities: 1) Financial Equity and Return on Investment (ROI); 2) Educator Talent Management; 3) Early Learning; 4) College and Career Readiness; 5) Evaluation and Research; and 6) Instructional Support. All states and territories were eligible to apply. In September 2015 Pennsylvania was awarded a $7 million federal SLDS grant for four projects related to Evaluation and Research, and Instructional Support. The SLDS FY15 grant period of performance is extended through September 30, 2021.

How many states received the SLDS grant?

Forty-three states applied but only 16 states received the grant (American Samoa, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin).

What is the Research and Evaluation project?

The goal of the Research and Evaluation project is to make full use of the robust data sets in PIMS to answer priority questions from an educational research agenda, to form collaborative research partnerships, and to increase PDE's capacity to conduct research. The research results will be used to inform program and policy decisions thus turning data into insights and insights into better policies for students, families, educators, and communities across the commonwealth. Below are the high-level milestones for this project:

  1. Develop a robust Research Agenda
  2. Develop a research request process
  3. Establish an Research and Evaluation webpage
  4. Establish a PDE research team
  5. Build collaborative partnerships with research organizations
  6. Assist PDE and research organizations with research using SLDS data
  7. Review and publish results; and
  8. Establish and improve a sustainable cycle for Research priorities, data requests, and result dissemination.

The PDE Research Agenda was established to guide PDE's evaluation and research efforts to move forward. The Research Agenda questions have been developed to target current issues and priorities of the Pennsylvania Department of Education and other stakeholders with the intent of providing information to influence policy decisions and ultimately improving student outcomes.

What is the Research and Evaluation project timeline?

In 2017, PDE finalized the first Research Agenda, Research Request process, and the Research and Evaluation project webpage. Beginning in 2018, the PDE research team and research organizations were able to begin proposing research projects aligned to priorities in the Research Agenda. Research findings are published to the Research and Evaluation Project webpage.

Why is this research being conducted?

PDE can gauge how well a program is working and use that information to inform program decisions and develop innovative policy solutions that improve program delivery and student outcomes. This will help Pennsylvania use funds and resources to ensure that effective programs receive the support they need to impact the most students in a positive way. After executive leadership approval, PDE will publish completed research reports on the Research and Evaluation webpage.

How does PDE collect SLDS data?

LEAs submit mandated data into PIMS to meet federal and state reporting requirements. LEAs review their data and use PIMS reports to ensure the quality and correctness of the data they submit. PDE staff help LEAs confirm the correctness of the data but do not submit data for LEAs or change the data that is submitted.

What are some of the examples of projects researchers could create using this data?

The types of research projects that could be performed using SLDS data include, but is not limited to, identifying trends that lead to college or workforce readiness and postsecondary success (persistence, retention, completion), identifying underserved student groups, and researching program effectiveness as it relates to student outcomes and success.

How will PDE ensure data is protected and used appropriately?

PDE makes data available to researchers in accordance with the PDE Data Access and Use Policy (PDF). PDE adheres strictly to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA, 20 USC 1232g) and other privacy laws (such as Title I and Special Education) to ensure information about citizens collected by schools and government agencies is released only for specific and legally defined purposes. A multi-tiered review process ensures research applications, researchers and the data being requested are carefully reviewed and vetted. Once a research project receives IRB approval, researchers must enter a data sharing agreement (Word), which guarantees the data provided by PDE is protected. Researchers may not share data with anyone outside of the agreement, and all data must be destroyed after completion of the research project and in accordance with the timeframe agreed upon in the data sharing agreement.

Who will have access to the data?

SLDS data will be provided to approved, qualified researchers in conformance to the PDE Data Access and Use Policy (PDF) and FERPA. Only authorized individuals will be granted access to the data. These authorized individuals may include PDE personnel, PDE-contracted researchers, and researchers with an IRB approved research study. All authorized individuals must adhere to the dictates of the data sharing agreement (Word) for the specific data request and the PDE Data Access and Use Policy ​(PDF).