State and local leaders need actionable data to answer high-priority questions about how to best prepare individuals for postsecondary and workforce pathways. However, most states lack the necessary data linkages across K–12, postsecondary, and workforce to generate data that leaders need to answer their questions. Even states with basic linkages in place often lack the functionality to make that data usable. Improving the availability of linked education and workforce data is essential for determining individuals’ long-term outcomes and identifying high-impact interventions that support individuals’ education and workforce journeys. This work is especially relevant as states address evolving workforce needs and interrupted education due to COVID-19.

State leaders should identify priority questions about individuals’ postsecondary transitions and statewide workforce needs, identify data needed to answer those questions, and create or scale resources to facilitate data access and use. These efforts will require leaders to:

How does the strategy create more equitable access and opportunities?

Linked workforce data helps state and local leaders identify interventions that support more equitable outcomes for individuals who are systematically underserved by the K–12 and postsecondary education systems and thus disproportionately excluded from work that pays a family-sustaining wage. Understanding the varied paths that individuals take to and through education and career helps leaders identify and invest in targeted supports that keep individuals on track to meet their goals and provide relevant supports when individuals need to re- or up-skill. Additionally, more transparent outcome data will help individuals avoid low-quality postsecondary or workforce training programs that often come with significant costs.

It is important for state leaders to spearhead efforts to improve data access and use to ensure that communities across the state have equitable access to data regardless of their resource levels. This type of innovation can often be concentrated in metropolitan areas or areas with higher median incomes, where leaders have access to more resources. State leaders play an important role in leveling the playing field, making sure these efforts are scalable and that data and the capacity to use data is available to all communities regardless of geographic location.

What outcomes or benefits are associated with the strategy?

With improved access to linked education and workforce data:

What are the budget implications for implementing the strategy?

The budget implications will vary state by state depending on the current status of the state’s P–20W data system and staffing levels. However, potential costs include:

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How will the strategy limit significant recurring costs while ensuring long-term sustainability?

States can use federal funds, including new dollars from the various rescue packages, to pay for start-up (e.g., building a dashboard) and maintenance costs.

What is the anticipated timeline for launching the strategy?

These efforts could begin within six months. Often the agreements between agencies to link data takes longer than the technical work to develop the data linkages.

What internal and/or external capacity (e.g. personnel, infrastructure, training, etc.) is needed to launch the strategy? To monitor and sustain it?


  • State-level project manager
  • State-level staff to develop and lead stakeholder engagement
  • State-level staff (or vendor) to create dashboard or other data tools as needed
  • Cross-agency coordinating entity to lead efforts to improve collaboration and transparency

Monitor and Sustain

  • State-level project manager to monitor progress and address issues as they arise
  • Cross-agency coordinating entity to maintain collaboration and transparency

What are the first 3-5 steps to take to implement the strategy?

  1. Identify priorities questions for key data users, including:
  • Contributing state agencies (e.g., K–12, higher education, workforce)
  • Local/regional leaders (e.g., community college president, district superintendent)
  • State legislators
  1. Conduct a technical infrastructure audit of the state’s P–20W system to determine if needed linkages exist. If they exist, assess whether they need to be strengthened or expanded to generate the data to answer priority questions identified above.
  2. Conduct a needs assessment with state and local leaders to understand their data needs, particularly as it relates to their capacity to access and use the data.
  3. Develop or scale existing data tools to meet users’ needs as identified above.
  4. Build external demand to demonstrate the value of this work and push agency leaders to make it a priority. Building demand can be achieved by working with trusted state and local partners to increase awareness of these issues and diversify the voices pushing to improve data access and usability.

What are potential challenges for implementing the strategy?

  1. Challenge: Lack of buy-in among contributing agency staff and/or agency leaders
    • Solution: Engage them early and often, making sure these efforts will produce data/insights that are relevant to their priorities.
  2. Challenge: Lack of funding or resources
    Solution: Leverage federal dollars to cover one-time/start-up expenses; identify ‘quick wins’ (e.g., data that’s already available, tweaking an existing data tool) to demonstrate immediate value of transparent, linked data to help build demand and support for this strategy.
  3. Challenge: Lack of demand/understanding from practitioners
    • Solution: Engage them early and often, making sure these efforts will produce data/insights that are relevant to their priorities; invest in partnerships with trusted local and regional partners who are best positioned to support local practitioners and build buy-in.
  4. Challenge: Privacy concerns about sharing linked data, even in the aggregate
    • Solution: Implement clear and transparent privacy policies along with meaningful stakeholder engagements that includes diverse voices.

What are models of schools, districts, and/or organizations that are successfully implementing this strategy?

    • KY STATS is a great example of how a state agency can transform P–20W data into usable resources and tools for practitioners on the ground.
    • Relevant tools include interactive dashboards as well as static reports.
  • GA Tunnel
    • Georgia’s longitudinal data system not only links data across sectors but also gives teachers direct access to that data.
    • Georgia also provides free training on how to access and use the system, often run by teachers themselves.
    • Minnesota provides regional data coaches to help build understanding and capacity throughout school districts.

What are some additional resources for districts/states interested in implementing this strategy?