Longitudinal Data for Education Reform: Critical Role for North Carolina Education Research Data Center

Accountability programs rely on high-stakes testing in order to measure progress toward equity in educational resources and student outcomes, with an emphasis on empirical criteria of improvement. These criteria have enhanced the collection of administrative data on districts, schools, and students for accountability reporting requirements, as well as focus on using this information to examine the impact of specific reforms. Education researchers from many academic disciplines have joined this effort, providing valuable insights on the measurable effects of education policies, as well as highlighting the areas in which information is lacking for valid assessment of progress toward reform goals. The availability of state and local data should allow research to inform policy in direct ways; however, the ways in which the data are organized, and difficulty of researcher access to data often create obstacles. The North Carolina Education Research Data Center, by providing researchers with access to data in user-friendly formats that are conducive to sophisticated modeling, is one of the most productive collaborations between a state education department and education policy researchers in the United States. The richness of data and straightforward access for researchers has inspired, and continues to inspire, a wealth of cutting-edge research that is highly relevant to education policy in North Carolina and across the United States.