Aaron Schroeder, an information integration and informatics research scientist at the Institute for Policy and Governance, a joint research center of Outreach and International Affairs and the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech, will be the principal investigator on a $1.76 million project to build a data-integration system that will enable long term analysis of kindergarten through 12th grade education, higher education, and workforce data across multiple state agencies in Virginia.

Schroeder will be responsible for designing, building, testing, and deploying the technical portions of this new data and reporting system, which will pull together data sets, using secure and privacy-enhanced methods, from multiple agencies and enable researchers and policy makers to access information about students’ progress over multiple decades during their education and into their time in the workforce.

The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education as part of its Longitudinal Data Systems program, with funds provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The grant proposal was written through a partnership of the Virginia Department of Education, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the Virginia Employment Commission, the Virginia Information Technologies Agency and Virginia Tech.

The new project builds on Schroeder’s previous work, specifically a privacy-protecting federated data-integration model being used by the Virginia Department of Social Services, the Virginia Department of Education, and Virginia Tech called Project CHILD HANDS. That initiative, funded by a three-year U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant, aims to improve the quality of data collected and enable the analysis of Virginia’s early childhood initiatives, in particular questions regarding child care quality in relation to the state’s child care subsidy program, family demographics, parental choice, and how these factors relate to children’s outcomes in kindergarten. 

According to Schroeder, the new award “represents an extension of our current projects and ongoing efforts to successfully, securely, and anonymously integrate child-level data records in Virginia for the purposes of Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation.” Once connected with Project Child HANDS, Schroeder says, “The Commonwealth of Virginia will have the ability to create privacy-protected longitudinal data sets from pre-kindergarten through college/workforce entrance ages,” with the ultimate goal of providing administrators and policy makers with hard data about how to make effective education and human capital investments across the state.

Work on the project has already begun, and Schroeder expects to have a prototype by fall 2012 and a fully functional system the following year.



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