The barriers to linking data across multiple electronic storage systems are rarely technical, it turns out; instead, they tend to reflect traditional issues of turf, leadership, and organizational culture.
Data linked across multiple systems has long been heralded as an obvious extension of the digital information age. Connecting the data silos, so the thinking goes, is essential for gaining a better understanding of how well people are served by various public systems (schools, child care, income/work support, and so on).
To fully realize the potential of indicator data to drive change in practice (and outcomes) often requires bringing together information from multiple sources and platforms, and across traditional administrative boundaries. This is certainly not a new idea, yet several recent reports shed light on some of the challenges that still stand in the way of data integration.
An example: School & Community Data
The interface between school data and a variety of other community data on child well-being has become another familiar ground for data linking/integration efforts. The growth in place-based initiatives, such as Promise Neighborhoods and the Strive Network, has provided added impetus to this work, but also made some persistent areas of difficulty more prominent.
Into this space, a recent report from Strive Together and the Data Quality Campaign casts some helpful light. In Data Drives School-Community Collaboration: Seven Principles for Effective Data Sharing, the authors identify some essential lessons, and debunk a few common myths.
- “Decision-makers, not data people, get information moving—and they do it when it’s in their own best interest.”
- “The first rule of data systems is to never begin by talking about data systems.”
- “One good question is worth a dozen data points.”
- “Data stewardship needs to be part of [school] districts’ and partners’ organizational DNA.”
- “When it is in the students’ best interest, very little legitimate data-sharing between schools and communities is prohibited by FERPA [the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act] or the array of state and federal laws that extend it.”