That follows Alabama’s recognition as just one of a dozen states in the 2009-10 Data Quality Campaign survey that met all 10 goals in a national campaign to improve the collection and tracking of data on student achievement and other measures of quality in education.
The requirement to capture this student data was established through the Alabama Legislature 15 years ago. Today, it includes more than 6.5 million records on students enrolled in Alabama public two-year and four-year colleges and universities. From this data, the commission produces various types of summary reports. Many of these reports are being used by chambers of commerce and economic developers across the state.
In the classroom, educators can determine what is working well and pinpoint opportunities and problems. Guidance counselors can help students make career choices based on job availability. Potential employers have information available on student enrollment in specific fields of study, as well as completion data.
It is imperative for the success of our students and our state that a strong collaboration between education and business and industry is established. The link between Alabama’s educational system and economic development cannot be ignored. The availability of this student data identifies high school graduation and college readiness, which in turn equates to an educated workforce. Existing businesses need to be supported, while potential new clients are shown the many positives about our state.
One tool needed in the equation is an electronic transcript system. This mechanism would track all students through their academic career by using an encrypted student identifier. Not only would this make it easier to track students’ progress, but also it would speed communication among academic institutions and provide a valuable resource for students in planning their options during and following high school.
ACHE has adopted Forging Strategic Alliances: The State Plan for Alabama Higher Education for 2009-10 through 2013-14. Included in the planning process were participants from public and private education and business and industry. The consensus was that establishing a comprehensive workforce development plan for the state was one of the top five priorities that needed to be addressed.
In order to expand and recruit, economic developers must be able to rely on accurate educational data in making their case for doing business in Alabama. There is not a need to look beyond the state’s own higher education coordinating board to provide that resource.
More information may be found on the web at: www.ache.alabama.gov/StudentDB/Index.htm and www.ache.alabama.gov/Workforce.
Stephen W. Shaw is chairman of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.