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Education Data Standards: The Next Common Core?

With most states signed on to the Common Core content standards and making headway in developing common assessments, a former teacher and state federal program director is making a passionate argument for states also to adopt a common language to link their longitudinal student data systems.

The Common Education Data Standards initiative released its second, expanded set of voluntary data standards this spring, including a tool to allow researchers and policymakers to tell how well their states' data systems align with the standards.

Gary West, a data consultant and the former strategic initiatives director for information systems at the Council of Chief State School Officers, one of the partner groups of the initiative, this week launched a Web site with a plethora of resources on the ins and outs of implementing the data standards.

"The implementation of [common data standards) creates the capacity to inform the future with education data—not just continuing to report the past," he said. "I believe CEDS is the touchstone to making that happen—and to the ultimate goal of personalizing learning for every learner, adult and child."

Jack Buckley, head of the National Center for Education Statistics, said the data standards are already being expanded again; the third version will not so much change existing data definitions as expand to more areas of concern for education watchers, such as preschool, career and technical education, labor and workforce issues, and Race to the Top-related data.

Buckley told me that he thinks West has some good implementation ideas, as does the data initiative set up last year by the Austin, Texas-based Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, but he added that "NCES is not in the business of implementing this. We're keeping everybody at the table long enough to create a common language, and that's enough for us."

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