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James Phares introduces state longitudinal system currently in the works for WV education

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According to James Phares, state superintendent of schools, a state longitudinal system is in the works.

Before the Legislature's joint standing committee on education Nov. 20, Phares explained what the system entails and what it would mean for education in the Mountain State.

A report by the Data Quality Campaign states that the West Virginia Department of Education has already begun to implement a comprehensive data governance structure to "strengthen the quality, collection, management and protection of data," which can then be utilized for multiple purposes.

One of the central purposes is for the P20 data system in W.Va., which securely links data between PK-12, post secondary education and the workforce. The three-level data governance structure facilitates partnerships between the various agencies within the state and reports data from a single source of information.

Who will have access to this longitudinal system?

Data access will be driven by secure role authentication at multiple levels within the West Virginia Department of Education. Currently, data is accessible by request only.

Phares said student data will not be shared with non-educational third parties.

With the development of ZoomWV, the Data Quality Campaign states the "West Virginia Department of Education is moving toward providing role-authenticated access to data with appropriate masking of data, with non-personally identifiable data being accessible through the P20 data warehouse.

Phares said family, religious and income information will not be included.

"Student privacy is an unalienable right in today's world of technology," he said.

With the longitudinal system, teachers would have access to student info, allowing for the individualization of student teaching.

P20 team members are also working toward creating access roles for other agency-level, and eventually, public-level users, including various reports of interest addressing key policy questions.

Under West Virginia Senate Bill 359, what was known during last year's legislative session as Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's education reform bill, a jointly agreed-upon definition of college and career readiness is required.

According to the Data Quality report, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and West Virginia Department of Education have begun working toward leveraging the existing P20 data system to comprehensively define college-and career-readiness.

Detailed in the report are the actions West Virginia has taken to ensure effective data use:

• Securely linked key data between K–12 and higher education to provide a clearer picture of students' success as they move through education settings.

• Established data governance structures to define the roles and responsibilities around data protection, quality, and use.

• Produced at least two publicly-available aggregate-level reports to guide school, district, and state improvement efforts.

In his report to the committee, Phares said that while West Virginia has improved in reading and math at the fourth and eighth grade level, that level is still not where it needs to be.

"We're not 49th anymore, but we're not where we need to be," he said.

While the eighth-grade level has shown significant improvement over the last 10 years, Phares said West Virginia still lags behind nationally at both fourth and eight grade.

Although the eight-grade gap hasn't widened as significantly as fourth-grade, Phares said it has continued to widen nonetheless.