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Policymaking in Indiana benefits from cross-agency data collaboration

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By Jim Lindsay
October 18, 2017

In Indiana, four state agencies are sharing data in an effort to better understand how state policies affect Indiana residents over the course of their lives, from preschool through career.

Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest currently engages with a number of collaborative research partnerships, including four research alliances, a networked improvement community, and other collaborations. The Indiana Network of Knowledge (INK), now part of Indiana’s Management Performance Hub, is one of those other collaborations. In 2012, the Indiana Workforce Intelligence System—a collaboration between the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University, Indiana Commission for Higher Education, Indiana Department of Education, Indiana Department of Workforce Development, and Indiana Family and Social Services Administration—received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics to develop a state longitudinal data system. State longitudinal data systems capture and link student information from preschool, K–12, and postsecondary education, as well as workforce data. The collaborative grew into INK, an independent state agency that developed structures, rules, and processes for the state’s longitudinal data system.

REL Midwest participated in INK’s Research Advisory Group and is conducting an applied research project to address a research question posed by INK’s governing board. However, INK has experienced change in recent months. In July 2017, INK was folded into another agency focused on facilitating data-driven decisionmaking in Indiana‚Äôs government: the Management Performance Hub (MPH). The hub also gathers Medicare, Medicaid, and public safety data. With this merger, Indiana can make informed decisions based on data collected and maintained by more agencies. The Research Advisory Group (including REL Midwest) has continued as a partnership between staff in Indiana state agencies and researchers that offers guidance to MPH staff who oversee the Education Workforce Development data system. The Research Advisory Group suggests ways to address agencies’ research questions, processes for sharing deidentified data with external researchers, and possible datasets and data visualizations to distribute publicly.

REL Midwest joined INK’s Research Advisory Group in 2015. During the 2012–2017 contract, REL Midwest conducted a technical assistance project to summarize the structures and processes that other states have developed to administer their longitudinal data systems. The project also cataloged the datasets and data reports that those states shared on their websites. In this first year of the current contract, REL Midwest continued to support INK through an applied research project to identify predictors of early college success at the K–12 level, with a particular interest in the relationship between financial aid and college success among disadvantaged students. The project uses data from the state longitudinal data system—specifically, deidentified student-level data maintained by the Indiana Department of Education and Indiana Commission for Higher Education. The findings from this project should help identify students who are likely to struggle in college and inform policymakers of the effectiveness of state financial aid in helping lower-income students succeed in college.

The results of this project will be published in the coming months.* REL Midwest enjoys this opportunity to study issues of shared interest with Indiana’s partnering agencies and hopes policymakers in other states will be able to learn from the findings as well as Indiana’s example of cross-agency collaboration.

* November 17, 2017: This article has been updated to reflect a change to the report’s publication date.

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Author(s) Information

Jim Lindsay Principal Researcher

Jim Lindsay

Principal Researcher | REL Midwest


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