RI Awarded $3.2M Grant to Enhance Data Collection and Better Prepare Students for College and Career

Governor Dan McKee, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Angélica Infante-Green, Commissioner of Postsecondary Education Dr. Shannon Gilkey, and Director of Labor and Training Matthew Weldon announced RI has been awarded a $3.2 million grant to enhance data collection related to college and career readiness. Administered by the U.S. Department of Education, the competitive Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems Grant Program is designed to help states improve the quality, reliability, and accessibility of education data. This grant will enable RI to bolster efforts in gathering and utilizing critical data to better prepare students for successful futures in both higher education and the workforce.

“Rhode Island is committed to providing its students with the best opportunities for success in their educational and career journeys,” said Governor Dan McKee. “This generous grant will empower our state to strengthen our data collection methods, ensuring that our education and workforce systems are aligned to support students in reaching their full potential.”

This collaboration between RIDE, who will serve as project manager, DLT, and the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner builds on Rhode Island’s decades of experience in removing silos and connecting data to support policymakers and practitioners in improving outcomes and closing equity gaps. This grant will primarily support the Rhode Island Longitudinal Data System Center (formerly known as DataSpark). The RILDS connects three decades of previously siloed education, employment, and health data using a custom-built machine learning algorithm to ensure accurate person-level matches. In the last three years, RI has used the RILDS to evaluate the state’s computer science programs, provide an overview of arts education, and explore postsecondary outcomes and workforce trajectories of Rhode Islanders in healthcare and social assistance, among many other projects.

“This grant represents a significant step forward in our ongoing efforts to prepare Rhode Island’s students for the demands of the 21st-century workforce,” said Chair of the Board of Education Michael Grey. “By strengthening our data infrastructure and collaboration among agencies, we will better understand the needs of our students and align our resources to meet those needs effectively.”

“Data is a crucial element of our work to ensure the success of RI students, and we are thrilled that the Ocean State has been awarded this grant funding to enhance our systems,” said Chair of the Elementary and Secondary Education Council Patti DiCenso. “As we look to improve student outcomes, it is critical that we work together with our state partners on systems that will identify areas of need and success. Together, will keep our state education system moving forward.”

Through this grant, RIDE and partner agencies will redesign and streamline the K-12 datasets essential to the RI Readiness-Based Graduation Requirements. In 2022, the Rhode Island Council on Elementary and Secondary Education approved the revised secondary regulations following a multi-year, data-driven, and community-informed process. The revised secondary regulations establish college- and career-ready coursework as the default expectation for every child regardless of where they live, their parent’s income, the language they speak at home, or their disability status. Streamlined data sets will include more information about real-world relevant learning, students’ academic, career, and social goals; and commitments outside of the classroom.

“Harnessing the power of data in education is the key to unlocking doors to college and career opportunities and ensuring every student can build their own success story,” said Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “By leveraging this grant, we can help ensure that Rhode Island’s education and workforce systems are well-aligned. We share our gratitude with the Department of Labor and Training and the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner for their continued partnership.”

Further, to improve understanding of college and career pathways, RI will add new education and workforce records into the data system and look to expand partnerships with other agencies. Additionally, the project will focus on making education and career readiness data more accessible to educators, policymakers, researchers, and the general public. The project will also reimagine the Rhode Island Talent Dashboard and create a data tool displaying college and career outcomes by pathway and subgroup.

“With improved data collection and analysis, RI can better understand successes and challenges in our education and workforce systems,” said RI Postsecondary Education Commissioner Shannon Gilkey, Ed.D. “By strengthening our systems, we will be able to improve outcomes among youth preparing for the postsecondary degrees and credentials of value necessary for well-paying, good jobs. On behalf of all the partners, we thank the U.S. Department of Education for giving us the means and opportunity via this generous grant.”

“Ensuring the success of our workforce begins with informed decisions. This grant fortifies our commitment to data-driven innovations playing a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of Rhode Island’s workforce,” said Department of Labor and Training Director Matthew Weldon. “Through this strategic partnership, our agencies can contribute to a seamless and responsive ecosystem, aligning education and career pathways for the benefit of every Rhode Islander.”

To improve data accessibility and facilitate data use, RI will also award grants to researchers investigating priority research and policy questions related to college and career pathways and the secondary regulations.

The four-year SLDS cooperative agreement follows significant efforts to enhance Rhode Island’s data system. In June 2023, the Rhode Island General Assembly approved Governor McKee’s proposal to institutionalize and invest in RILDS. The Rhode Island Longitudinal Data System Act formalizes and expands data governance structures, more closely integrating RILDS into state government. Finally, it renames the Rhode Island DataHUB to the RILDS, DataSpark to the RILDS Center, and relocates both from the University of Rhode Island (URI) to OPC. This move centers the RILDS within the agencies’ existing partnership structure, and since ROPC supports all three public higher education institutions, strengthens partnerships between the RILDS Center and state researchers.

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