At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we want all students and everyone supporting them—from educators and parents to policymakers—to have the information they need to help students succeed on their education journey and into the workforce. Better data and evidence can help identify disparities in student success by race, ethnicity, and income and strengthen efforts to eliminate those disparities while also protecting student privacy and security. Our Data Strategy supports efforts to improve education and workforce data systems to ensure that these systems count all students and their outcomes in order to drive more equitable outcomes for all students, from early learning through college and into careers.

Every student counts

Our education system faces significant challenges in collecting, reporting, and using key data about student progress and outcomes across early learning, K-12, and postsecondary education and into the workforce. These challenges hamper efforts to serve all students well, especially students of color and students from low-income backgrounds, whose outcomes are obscured when data are not disaggregated by race, income, and other factors. They also prevent us from better understanding what is working to improve outcomes and why.

States and the federal government have made progress toward better connecting education and workforce data systems to count all students and their outcomes, so schools and institutions can use data to drive better and more equitable outcomes while protecting privacy and security. But critical gaps remain.

We want educators and policymakers to be empowered with the information they need to implement evidence-based practices that will support more equitable student outcomes. Students and their families should have access to information too, to help them make informed choices, especially as they navigate the transition from high school to postsecondary education, where most take on debt that impacts their futures. All students and families deserve a return on that investment of time and resources.

In pursuit of the goal that educators and policymakers are empowered with the information they need to support students, we support the development of strong, aligned data systems at the national, state, and local levels that will serve as exemplars and help drive equitable outcomes. We also support efforts and tools that use data to identify ways to serve all students more effectively and eliminate disparities in student success by race, ethnicity, and income.

Latest news and insights

Data grantees

Postsecondary Value Commission
Postsecondary Data Collaborative
Coleridge Initiative
National Student Clearinghouse
Future of Privacy Forum
Strategic Data Project
Data Quality Campaign

Data focus areas

Scaling national systems to yield insights for supporting students

To help all students progress successfully into and through postsecondary education and into the workforce, we need comprehensive, accurate information on their pathways and outcomes. To that end, we invest in national and multistate data systems that provide readily available, disaggregated information on learners’ key transition points to those who support students. Our strategy aims to scale these systems with longitudinal data systems that show learners’ postsecondary education and workforce paths and outcomes across sectors and states. These systems can provide valuable data that support high schools in improving how they prepare students for postsecondary success, guide college administrators to better align program offerings to workforce needs and outcomes, and help students and families understand the returns on their investments in postsecondary education.

Building exemplar state data systems

The pandemic exposed the need for modernizing state data systems to better support learners and workers. An effective state data system should be longitudinal—providing information on learners’ paths from early learning through the workforce. It also should yield secure, real-time data that help students make decisions about their education and career pathways and empower workers to access benefits and training programs so they can upgrade their skills for the new economy. Our strategy focuses on helping a cohort of states develop effective exemplar data systems that build around the needs of learners and workers, integrate information across education and the workforce, and employ robust security and privacy safeguards. We also invest in the creation of assets that enable other states to learn from and follow the model of these exemplar state data systems.

Using data to support innovation

As students increasingly use digital learning tools, educators, families, and students themselves have more and richer information about their education experiences. These data can help educators pinpoint ways to better support students in real time, can assist students with navigating their educational journeys, and, when used in secure and deidentified ways, can aid researchers and developers in improving digital learning tools to better serve students. Overall, our data innovation work focuses on removing barriers to safely accessing and using these data to serve all students more effectively.