Statewide longitudinal data system helps feed children in need

Michigan's statewide longitudinal data system was critical in getting food benefits to children in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS) have been around for many years, helping states understand students’ paths through the education system and beyond. The COVID-19 pandemic was an opportunity for one state’s SLDS to step up in new ways that helped feed children in need. With the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently extending universal free lunches, states should look at what Michigan accomplished in the early days of the pandemic.

Each year, school cafeterias prepare more than 5 billion free or reduced priced meals for over 30 million children through the National School Lunch Program. Last year, following widespread school shutdowns due to COVID-19, many kids were cut off from their only consistent source of food. As the USDA stepped in with pandemic meal benefits, many states struggled to identify eligible kids, the number of which increased as the pandemic’s economic effects rippled across America. However, Michigan had a special recipe for student lunch benefits.

Michigan was the first state to get money to families by mid-April, and by May had distributed benefits to more than 900,000 families, thanks to its Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI). CEPI collects student educational data from school districts in a SLDS on behalf of the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). The statewide longitudinal data system, built using SAS software, collects and connects many data about students, schools and teachers, like school finance, teacher preparation, courses and grades, graduation rates, college enrollment and free or reduced-price lunch eligibility each school year. CEPI also used SAS Analytics to perform address verification to ensure the right amount of funding got mailed to the right families on EBT cards.

Over the last two decades, CEPI has refined data quality collection processes and developed relationships, including data sharing agreements, to facilitate cross-agency collaboration. That work enabled CEPI, MDE and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to quickly identify kids in need and distribute benefits during a crisis.

A modern statewide longitudinal data system that meets the needs of students and their communities is an essential part of a strong educational framework. Check out the white paper, From cradle to career: A modern SLDS, to learn how an SLDS supports policies, programs and decisions that drive toward an excellent academic experience for every student.


About Author

Katrina Miller

Education Industry Consultant, SAS State & Local Government Practice

Katrina utilizes her experience in K-12 and higher education policy to support SAS EVAAS for K-12 in the educational community. She previously worked with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, where she supported state efforts to use data to improve teacher and leader preparation for all students, including students with disabilities. Katrina holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and master’s degree in higher education administration from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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