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Summary of Consumer Guide to MLDS Center Data, Dashboards, and Research Reports

The purpose of this consumer guide is to provide more information about the Center’s research to help consumer’s better understand our data, dashboards, and research reports. This guide includes information about the structure of the Center’s data, the complexity of the data, and guidelines for interpreting our data.

The Center receives data from the Maryland State Department of Education, the Maryland Higher Education Commission, Maryland Department of Labor, Maryland Department of Juvenile Services and the Maryland Department of Human Services. The partnerships of these agencies with the Center allow the Center to research issues that combine the interests of the individual agencies as well as all Marylanders.

The Center’s data are complex for a number of reasons, including:

  • The data are longitudinal, which means data on the same individuals are collected over multiple points in time.
  • The data are multilevel, which means individuals within the data set are grouped by aspects of their experiences. For example, students are grouped within schools.
  • Multiple factors influence education and workforce outcomes. For example, student outcomes may be influenced by classmates, teacher characteristics, and school characteristics.

This complexity requires that advanced data analysis techniques be used.

It is important to keep in mind that the Center has access to observational data. An association is present in this data when two variables are related in a way that is unlikely to have occurred just by chance. If the Center reports an association between two variables, it does not mean that one variable caused the other. For example, if the Center observes an association between STEM-course taking and earnings, it does not mean that STEM-course taking causes greater earnings.

It is a core part of the Center’s mission to examine student group differences in educational outcomes. For example, outcomes may differ by gender group (male/female). Our findings will be interpreted in the context of such differences.

Given the complexity of the MLDS Center data and research, multiple quality assurance standards are in place to guide our research. We maintain standards that ensure that we are building high quality data sets and using valid and trustworthy data, methods, and reporting.

The MLDS Center research will inform policy makers and practitioners. Our longitudinal data analyses can be used to answer important questions about student and employee outcomes that have heretofore been unknown. For more information, please see the full consumer guide to research .