VLDS Celebrates a Year of Successes
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VLDS Celebrates a Year of Successes

New Agency Joins VLDS Partners
This year, the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) became an official VLDS partner agency, joining the Virginia Department of Education, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the Virginia Employment Commission and the Virginia Community College system in providing a resource for addressing questions that are important to Virginia citizens and policymakers within a secure environment. With the addition of the new VDSS data, researchers now will be able to answer burning questions such as:

  • What factors in the life of a foster care child have the greatest impact on school achievement and later mental, physical and financial health?
  • How does investment in early childhood health and education impact future need for and cost of public assistance?
VLDS leadership sought by other states
A basic principle of the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems Grant program is “Better decisions require better information." And Virginia has emerged as a leader among states in developing a cost-effective tool for extracting and analyzing data within a secure environment.  Recently, several states have consulted the VLDS partners for advice and assistance in developing their longitudinal data systems and outreach programs. 
Connecticut and Idaho turned to Virginia for assistance in the design and implementation of educational and workforce longitudinal data systems. “The VLDS crew has been a tremendous resource; this is truly a great group of very knowledgeable people who are willing to share,” said Andy Mehl, the Idaho SLDS project coordinator. “Virginia has built what I consider to be the best solution. The team has done a fantastic job on design and documentation, and I’m using their approach to build my solution.” In Connecticut, Jan Kiehne, program manager for P20 Win, the state’s cross-agency data sharing system, consulted with the VLDS team, in large part because Connecticut uses a similar federated model (each partner’s data remains their own rather than being put into a central database). According to Ms. Kiehne, “We are impressed with the great work Virginia is doing and look to them as an example.”
In addition to providing technical and organizational expertise, the VLDS team assisted The Alaska Department of Education & Early Childhood in the creation of its own version of the “What is VLDS?” video.

Insights Conference
This year’s Insights Conference 2014 focused on the theme Bridging the Data Divide. More than 140 professionals representing a wide range of fields/industries attended the conference.
The conference featured keynote speakers Karen Jackson, the current Virginia Secretary of Technology and Aneesh Chopra, former U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Virginia Secretary of Technology. Twenty breakout presentations provided attendees with insights from VLDS research, innovative programs like Apps4VA that have used the data to build unique solutions, how entrepreneurs hope to use data from VLDS in the future and more. Presentations from the conference are available here.
Next year’s conference is already being planned.  Be sure to save the date for the Insights Conference 2015.

Open data portal
In April, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the launch of, an open data portal containing links to data such as school report cards, open geospatial information and fire incident reporting system data. The site links to several of Virginia’s big data initiatives, including VLDS.

2014 Research Roundup

  1. Virginia’s College and Career Readiness Initiative was sponsored by VDOE and analyzed the postsecondary outcomes of high school students. The study found that graduating with Virginia’s Advanced Studies diploma and high achievement in math and writing courses predict better college outcomes. Ninety-three (93) percent of Advanced Studies diploma earners who enrolled in four-year institutions were still enrolled or had earned a credential by their fourth year compared to only 73 percent of those who earned a standard diploma.
  2.  VLDS sponsored a research project called “Bridging the Data Divide” to gain a greater understanding of the cultural divide between the state agencies and university researchers as well as insights into how they can achieve a strategic alignment toward their shared missions.
  3.  VEC and VCCS sponsored a joint study that examined how return on investment (ROI) differs across demographic groups, economic factors, services levels and the types of services utilized (e.g., training, certifications) and regional differences. The study found that earning a certificate or other credential yielded higher returns than training without earning a credential. A presentation on the results of the full ROI study can be found here and a follow-up presentation on the ROI for vulnerable populations is here.
  4.  Virginia’s 2008 On-Time Graduation Rate Cohort Four-Year College Enrollment, Persistence and Completion study followed the 2008 Virginia high school graduates and examined their success rates in college. Of the 78,087 high school graduates in the cohort, 54,024 students (or 69 percent of graduates) enrolled in a college or university in the first year after graduation. Students with Advanced Studies diplomas were far more likely to enroll, remain, and graduate from college within four years.
  5.  VDOE sponsored a study following Virginia Career and Technical Education (CTE) completers into college. The study found that taking the right courses in high school, as represented by earning an Advanced Studies diploma, is the most important factor in predicting high school graduates’ college enrollment, persistence and completion.
  6.  SCHEV released its Mid-Career Wage Report, highlighting that earnings not only are impacted by the level of degree, but also by the type of major an individual chooses. The report examined the wages of graduates up to 20 years after graduation.

In Case You Missed It

Executive Order 23, issued by Gov. Terry McAuliffe in August, outlined a long-term plan for “Establishing the New Virginia Economy Initiative” around STEM fields. According to Megan Healy, the director of STEM for the Commonwealth of Virginia, “VLDS holds the data that provides the foundation for next steps of data decision-making in education and workforce.”
In November, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine highlighted VLDS in a statement made to the Senate.
The Washington Post discussed college rating systems following the announcement that the President is working on a federal college rating system. The piece also mentioned that Virginia’s data on college graduation rates are more complete than the data collected by the federal government.
In some of the most important measures of college accountability — graduation rates, net prices, postgraduate wages and community-college outcomes — the Integrated Post Secondary Data System data fall short. (Chronicle of Higher Education) included VLDS in a piece about big data in schools.
The State Scoop interviewed Bethann Canada on how VLDS is helping to inform state leaders so that they can make more informed policy decisions on education.
SCHEV released its report on mid-career earnings of college graduates, supporting the idea that going to college pays off for graduates. (Inside Higher Ed)
Bethann Canada was a part of a panel discussion at the SXSWedu Conference where she discussed how states are flipping the procurement process by “using principles such as user-centered design, crowdsourcing, prototyping and co-creation to bring procurement into the modern age.”
The Hechinger Report highlighted Apps4VA’s program to promote the development of apps using VLDS data.

Save the Date

The 2015 Insights Conference will be held on Tuesday June 30, 2015 on the Stafford Campus of the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg.

Brought to you by:
Virginia Department of Education
State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
Virginia Community College System
Virginia Employment Commission
Virginia Department of Social Services
Center for Innovative Technology 
For more information on VLDS, visit
VLDS PRIVACY PROMISE: We, the members of VLDS, promise to protect the privacy and confidentiality of data entrusted to us. The VLDS system is designed to meet or exceed all state and federal privacy laws and requirements.
Copyright © 2014 Virginia Longitudinal Data System, All rights reserved.

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