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Case Study

Grounding DC’s Education Through Employment Data System in Equity and Economic Opportunity

Coming out of the pandemic, the District of Columbia established a bold vision to reimagine the high school experience for DC students with a focus on expanding college and career opportunities beyond the offerings of each individual high school. The result was the launch of the District’s Advanced Technical Center, an open-enrollment career and technical education center that offers courses in cybersecurity, and nursing, for which students earn both high school and college credit. DC has also launched virtual courses that enroll students from across multiple public high schools in specialized offerings that are not available at their school. In developing this work, District leaders recognized a need to better understand how these education and workforce investments lead to improved economic mobility and employment opportunities for DC youth. To achieve this goal, Mayor Bowser authorized legislation in 2023 to create a centralized data system connecting data along the pre-K-to-workforce continuum. This forthcoming Education Through Employment Data System will provide policymakers, researchers, and the public with a clear picture of opportunities and supports that are priming DC residents for economic mobility through information about employment outcomes for people who have participated in the District's PK-12, higher education, and workforce programs.  

As it embarked on the process to connect information across multiple agencies, the newly formed Education Through Employment team faced a simple but daunting question: “Where should we focus our initial efforts?” The team used the E-W Framework as a resource to initiate and guide discussions about what types of data are possible to collect, thinking beyond common accountability-focused outcome indicators to more expansive indicators of neighborhood context and system supports. For example, the framework’s emphasis on indicators of system conditions prompted the team to reflect on how adjacent systems play a key role in mediating educational and employment outcomes. As a result of this reflection, the team is considering whether and how to integrate social services data with education and workforce data. The team found the framework’s overall structure—anchoring data collection efforts in essential questions to determine what measures matter most—as a helpful, easy-to-understand frame to communicate and share with both internal and external audiences.  

Looking ahead to 2024, the team will engage the DC community to understand what issues and questions are most important to youth, recent graduates, adult learners, families, employers, and other community members. Community priorities will inform the identification of key areas of focus, thereby helping the Education Through Employment team understand which system linkages to prioritize. This community-centered approach offers an example of Data Equity Principle 7: Restore communities as data experts, and the team intends to continue using the E-W Framework’s data equity principles to guide its approach to community engagement. The team has also established data disaggregation as a priority, recognizing that disaggregated data illuminate the impact of programming on diverse groups and reflecting Data Equity Principle 3: Disaggregate data on both outcomes and system conditions to analyze disparities, monitor progress, and guide action. Currently in the early stages of this project, the District is positioned to be a leader in applying a data equity approach with a focus on improving access and outcomes for DC residents who are furthest from opportunity.

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This website was funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.