California Cradle-to-Career Data System

Legislation passed in 2019 called for the establishment of a statewide, longitudinal data system for California. The Cradle-to-Career Data System aims to link existing education, workforce, financial aid, and social service information to better equip policymakers, educators, and the public to address disparities in opportunities and improve outcomes for all students throughout the state.

Governor Newsom and the Legislature approved funding for the Cradle-to-Career Data System in its 2021-22 budget. The data system will be implemented by the Government Operations Agency.

Why Does California Need the Cradle-To-Career Data System?

By securely connecting data that schools, colleges, social service agencies, financial aid providers, and employers already collect, it will be easier to:
  • Identify the types of supports that help more students learn, stay in school, prepare for college, graduate, and secure a job
  • Provide information that teachers, advisors, parents, and students can use to identify opportunities and make decisions
  • Help agencies plan for and improve educational, workforce, and social services programs
  • Support research on improving policies from birth through career

To learn more, download a two-page summary of the value of the Cradle-to-Career Data System for Californians, view testimonials about the tools for students and high schools, and see the research information that would be available.

How Would the Data System Be Structured?

The Cradle-to-Career Data System includes three core components:
  • Tools for policy makers, researchers, educators, and advocates, including dashboards, a query builder, summaries of key student and employment outcomes, and a research library. These tools would be accessible to the general public and provide actionable information on education, social services, employment patterns, and equity gaps in opportunities and outcomes. Researchers could request access to restricted data for authorized purposes.
  • Tools for students and the educators who support them, including college and career planning, college-eligibility monitoring, electronic transcripts, college applications, and access to financial aid and other services such as medical care and food.
  • Tools to support data use including outreach, professional development, and clear feedback loops with intended users, designed to build the capacity of policymakers, educators, parents, and students to make better-informed decisions.

Types of Information: Initially, the data system would link existing K–12, public postsecondary, employment, financial aid, and teacher credentialing data. Within the first five years of development, additional information on early learning and care, private and independent colleges, workforce training programs, and social services would be added. 

Privacy: The data system is designed with privacy and security as the top priority. Detailed technical requirements have been developed that align with the most stringent federal and state policies. Individuals would be able to opt out of the linked data set.

Governance: The data system will be governed by a board made up of representatives of data providers and stakeholders who use the information. The governing board would set the strategic direction and ensure that the system is supporting the state’s goals. Two advisory boards would support the governing board, one to ensure that the system includes actionable data and the other to ensure that the intended audiences are aware of the data system and know how to use the information it provides.

Management: The data system will be incubated as a new office within the Government Operations Agency (GovOps). GovOps would serve as a neutral entity, focused on providing reliable information to support decision-making and advance equitable outcomes.

Leveraging Existing Investments: Rather than design the data system from scratch, broadly available technology tools will be used to store, link, and display data. Tools for students and educators would be provided by expanding access to existing state-funded projects like CaliforniaColleges.edu and eTranscript California.

How Were the Recommendations Developed?

Over the course of 2020 and the first half of 2021 more than 200 people from 15 state agencies and many educational institutions, research and policy organizations, and community groups worked together to design a blueprint for the California Cradle-to-Career Data System.

The extensive planning process, which was facilitated by WestEd, included multiple subcommittees that considered various aspects of data system development including, technology and security, legal frameworks, data definitions, and community engagement. A workgroup composed of entities that will provide information and state agencies with expertise in data considered the findings of these subcommittees and advice from two advisory groups made up of community members.

The workgroup proposed a series of recommendations which are detailed in reports delivered to the legislature in December 2020 and April 2021. A final report was completed in June 2021.

What Happens Next?

The workgroup's reports are now finalized and can be viewed on the Recommendations page. GovOps has begun work on implementing the data system, including hiring staff and completing technical documentation with the California Department of Technology. Please join our listserv to stay informed.

Where Do I Find More Detailed Information?

Download an overview of the project, read a general FAQ , access a technical FAQ or examine the recommendations.