About the Center
The purpose of the Maryland Longitudinal Data System (MLDS) is to generate timely and accurate information about student performance that can be used to improve the State’s education system and guide decision makers at all levels. To accomplish this task, the MLDS collects and organizes individual-level student and workforce data from all levels of education and the State’s workforce.
The Maryland Longitudinal Data System (MLDS) was established by State law in 2010. In July of 2013, the MLDS Center began operations as an independent unit of State Government. The Center is overseen by a 15 member Governing Board. The Center has fifteen full and part-time positions and a partnership with the University of Maryland, School of Social Work which provides research services and houses the Center’s headquarters. Staff of the Center are also located at the Maryland State Department of Education building in Baltimore. The Center is supported primarily through State funds with additional funding from federal grants.
The Center is assigned the following responsibilities:
- Serves as a central repository of student data and workforce data;
- Oversee and maintain the data system;
- Ensures compliance with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other relevant privacy laws and policies;
- Designs, implements, and maintains strict system security procedures;
- Conducts research pursuant to the Governing Board’s research agenda;
- Maintains a public facing website and data portals; and
- Fulfills public information requests.
To accomplish its responsibilities, the MLDS Center relies on a unique partnership with other State entities, including:
- The Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC);
- The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE);
- Maryland Department of Labor;
- Maryland Department of Juvenile Services (DJS); and
- The University of Maryland, School of Social Work and College of Education .
In addition to providing the vast majority of the student and workforce data comprising the data system, MHEC, Labor and MSDE also each share a staff person with the Center. The shared employees spend half their time on MLDS duties and the other half of their time on duties related to the partner agencies. This model was developed to help the agencies build capacity to be able to support the Center’s work on an ongoing basis as well ensure efficient communications and cooperation. In addition, MSDE provides additional in-kind support by providing office space, fiscal and personnel management, and hosting of the system within its data center.
University of Maryland
The Center’s other critical partners are the University of Maryland School of Social Work (at the University of Maryland Baltimore) and College of Education (at the University of Maryland College Park). These two institutions comprise the Research Services Branch of the Center. These schools are both national leaders in research and evaluation and have compiled a team that will ensure in-depth, scholarly analysis of the Center’s research questions. The schools are also committed to training new scholars in the use of data and both have engaged various graduate students and doctoral candidates to work on Center related research. The School of Social Work provides additional in-kind support by providing fully equipped office space for the MLDS Center headquarters.
The Data System
The design and development of the longitudinal data system began at MSDE before the Center came into existence. The project, supported by federal grant money, relied primarily on contractors during these initial phases of the system development. The Center has gradually taken over the system development and maintenance, the goal has been to bring the development and maintenance of the system in-house. Relying on Center staff to support the system development and maintenance will greatly reduce operating costs and provide a flexible and dynamic solution that can be modified as needed to meet changing demands.
The concern for sustainability also informed choices regarding data management software. Instead of licensing expensive custom software programs to manage and match data from various sources, the Center has instead designed its own data management system. This creates a substantial saving for the Center and provides the Center with the ability to make changes as needed to meet changing demands.
Currently the MLDS Center staff is made up of 12 full-time positions.The majority of the positions are technical information technology staff to support the design, development and maintenance of the system to house the data.
The Center is committed to ensuring that the management of the data system and the information output meets the standards and needs of the various stakeholders. To this end, the Center organizes and meets monthly with two advisory boards.
Data Governance Advisory Board
The Data Governance Advisory Board (Data GAB) is required by the Data Security and Safeguarding Plan. Membership to and the roles and responsibilities of the Data GAB are provided in detail in its bylaws. The membership of the Data GAB includes a data steward from each agency and the MLDS executive director and branch directors. The Data GAB has the following roles and responsibilities:
- Reviewing the data inventory and collection schedule;
- Monitoring data quality, including informing MLDS staff on data limitations, identifying potential differences between the uses of data, and reviewing new portals;
- Identifying data gaps and analyzing whether additional data collections are needed;
- Identifying stakeholders and establishing decision rights and accountability;
- Security oversight, including reviewing the implementation of and compliance with the Data Security and Safeguarding Plan;
- Helping align initiatives by ensuring data collected are sufficient to meet research needs;
- Ensuring data is used and maintained consistent with state and federal laws, regulations, and the Public Information Act; and
- Identifying measures of success.
Research and Policy Advisory Board
Membership to and the roles and responsibilities of the Research and Policy Advisory Board (RPB) are provided in detail in its bylaws. Generally, the RPB has the following roles and responsibilities:
- Advising the MLDS staff on the Research Agenda, research plans, and prioritization;
- Hearing from outside entities proposing additions to the agenda;
- Commenting on research output, web portals, and other reports created by the MLDS Center;
- Providing input on public communications and governance issues (i.e. regulations); and
- Advising the Center on grant opportunities and possible partnerships.
Maryland’s work towards developing a longitudinal data system is recognized as a national model for its technical solution as well as its approach to the ongoing governance and management of the system. The development of longitudinal data systems for the analysis of educational and workforce outcomes is being pursued to some extent in most states throughout the country, because of a growing awareness that longitudinal data can be used to answer important questions about student and employee outcomes that have heretofore been unknown.
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