The following profile is a representation of the Montana public education state longitudinal data system (SLDS) as presented through publicly available resources of public primary, secondary and higher education, information made available to the public through the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the Data Quality Campaign, published research articles, other third party internet resources (as noted), and direct contact with state and federal public education officials. It is not a formal program evaluation.
The information provided is intended for use by academic researchers, state and federal public education policy makers, educators, and student households.
|Introduction||Evaluation Criteria||Governance and Maintenance||Data Providers|
|Funding||Researcher Access||Public User Portal||Legal Statues|
|Download State Profile||GEMS Dashboard||GEMS Website||NCES Funding:
The Growth and Enhancement of Montana Students System (GEMS) is Montana’s public education state longitudinal data system (SLDS) governed by the K-20 Data Governance Council, and intergovernmental committee comprised of members from the state agencies that contribute to the GEMS. These state agencies include the Montana Office of Public Instruction (MOPI) and the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (MOCHE). The GEMS, created for the purpose of collecting and analyzing Montana public education data at the individual, course, institution, and system levels, aggregates data records from the breadth of the Montana public education systems. The combined data collection systems are part of a nation-wide effort to record granular public education detail over time in order to document the entirety of students’ education experience. This information is intended to be available for analysis and public policy consideration for the purpose of producing improvements in student learning at elementary, secondary, post-secondary, and higher education levels, and to optimize labor market outcomes, individually and generally.
Montana is one of the 47 states having received public funding to create a state longitudinal data system (SLDS). Despite state-to-state differences, each SLDS shares a common purpose of supporting research and analysis with the intent of informing individual, household, and public policy decision based on standardized criteria.
 The Growth and Enhancement of Montana Students System enables state agencies to link education and workforce data to answer questions critical to understanding Montana’s future education workforce needs
 State longitudinal data systems are intended to enhance the ability of states to efficiently and accurately manage, analyze, and use education data nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/about_SLDS.asp
 The Montana Office of Public Instruction provides vision, advocacy, support and leadership for schools and communities to ensure that all student meet today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities opi.mt.gov/
 The Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education is the central administrative unit of the Montana University System and the Board of Regents mus.edu/che/
This review assesses the overall quality of the GEMS as an SLDS by considering the nature of the organization maintaining the data system, those agencies and institutions providing inputs to the data system, and to which agencies and institutions the data systems’ outputs are available. The assessment also considers the data system’s funding mechanisms, internal and external researcher data accessibility, the quality of the data system’s public user interface (dashboard), and the data system’s current Data Quality Campaign (DQC) ranking.
 The Data Quality Campaign is a national, nonprofit organization leading the effort to bring every part of the education community together to empower educators, parents, and policymakers with quality information to make decisions that ensure students excel dataqualitycampaign.org/
Governance and Maintenance
The GEMS is governed by the K-20 Data Governance Council, an intergovernmental committee created to by the MOPI and MOCHE to lead and guide the K-20 SLDS effort. The committee provides data leadership and data stewardship to the state agency members tasked with maintaining and overseeing the GEMS. The committee also ensures that efficient data coordination and collaboration procedures exist between the state agencies that provide data records to the GEMS. The K-20 Data Governance Council is tasked to ensure the data within the GEMS meets appropriate data quality standards, to resolve data ownership issues between parties if they arise, and to the improve the quality of the GEM’s data collection, reporting and usage procedures. The K-20 Data Governance Committee also is charged with facilitating information sharing agreements between the state agencies which provide data records to the GEMS. 
The K-20 Data Governance Committee is comprised of representatives appointed by the Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Montana Commissioner of Higher Education. These representatives report to these two education policy leaders and will be responsible for managing and improving the GEMS in their respective area of expertise. These representatives are responsible for identifying and collecting metadata records which will be incorporated in the GEM data dictionary. These members are expected to serve as liaisons for the state agency which they represent and ensure that their state agency is knowledgeable of necessary data interoperability requirements and procedures. 
The K-20 Data Governance Committee includes senior leadership from the MOPI and the MOCHE and will work in conjunction with an appointed business analyst to ensure that the GEMS is managed effectively and efficiently. The council leads the development and establishment of a statewide data quality and validation process for the personnel who provide data records to the state agencies’ data systems. The council works to ensure the quality and integrity of the data in the GEMS through its state data audit system which assess the quality, validity and reliability of data contained within the GEMS. Finally, the council develops and implements data use and access processes that are provide requested data in a timely fashion while maintaining secure data distribution processes.
 Information obtained from Montana’s 2012 SDLS Grant application nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/pdf/Montana2012.pdf
 See ref. 6
 See ref. 6
The GEMS receives data records from each of the state agencies whose representatives comprise the K-20 Data Governance Committee, as well as the Montana Department of Labor and Industry (MDLI). Each of these state agencies have their own data recording systems which provide data records to the GEMS either regularly or on ad hoc basis. These data records are compiled into the GEMS K-20 data warehouse, a data repository with the systemic capabilities to perform record linkage between these various data records. The GEMS K-20 data warehouse is housed and maintained by the MOPI, however, the reports provided by the data records within the data warehouse are co-branded between the MOPI and MOHE. 
The GEMS receives K-12 data records from the MOPI’s Achievement in Montana System (AIMS), a statewide K-12 student information system. AIMS collects individual level student information on all students in the Montana K-12 public education system. This system was created to promote education excellence in Montana’s public schools by allowing state public policy makers to make data driven decisions. These decisions focus on continuously improving the K-12 public school system and the increasing academic achievement levels of public school students. The AIMS accomplishes this task by collecting individual student level information on all students in the Montana K-12 public education system. This individual student level information is used to analyze student outcomes through their education process and yields invaluable information to policy makers and other interested parties about the effects of education programs and initiatives on student achievement. The AIMS provides this individual student level information by assigning a unique statewide student identifier (SSID) to students when they first enter the Montana public school system. This SSID will remain on each student’s permanent record throughout their K-12 public education experience, as well as their higher education experience if they attend a post-secondary education institution. The AIMS collects information on student-level enrollment, demographic characteristics, program participation rates, retention rates, and yearly test results. 
The GEMS also receives information from the MOCHE’s Montana University System (MUS), a student unit record-level longitudinal data system that collects enrollment, course information, and graduation data of students enrolled in state-sponsored post-secondary education institutions in Montana. The MUS provides a robust set of individual student level data on a variety of topics such as student demographics, assessment outcomes, course grades, and transfer rates. The MOCHE maintains this data system and uses the information provided by the system to assess critical performance indicators and key measures within its strategic education improvement plans. The MOCHE also has developed a data sharing agreement with the MDLI that enables the agencies to track the workforce outcomes of students who graduate from Montana’s higher education institutions. This agreement provides the MUS with access to past and current Unemployment and Insurance wage records. This workforce information allows the MUS to analyze the percentage of graduates who find employment in Montana, the level of wages they command, and the industries which employ them.
The GEMS links the data records provided by the AIMS and MUS through the SSID, the unique student identifier number that is assigned to students when they enter the public education system by the AIMS. This SSID follows students as when they enter and progress through the Montana higher education system. 
The MOPI applied for federal funding through the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), an agency of the United States Department of Education, in 2009, 2012, and 2015 and was awarded three grants, the 2009 SLDS Grant, the 2012 SLDS Grant, and the 2015 SLDS Grant, for the purpose of developing the GEMS. The 2009 SLDS Grant was awarded $5,798,457 to the MOPI for the purpose of developing the data warehouse that would house the state longitudinal data system. This funding was used to pay for the various costs associated with developing a data system, including personnel costs, travel costs, equipment costs, contractual costs, and indirect costs. The proposed outcomes of the funding were to:
- Create an enterprise-wide data architecture to map the future for Montana’s educational data system
- Create a data governance structure
- Establish a data warehouse
- Migrate data from numerous legacy data systems to the data warehouse
- Implement business intelligence tools to make the data accessible for many different users
The 2012 SLDS Grant awarded MOPI $3,977,861 for the purpose of creating data interoperability between the AIMS data warehouse and MSU data warehouse. This funding was used to pay for the various costs associated with developing a data system, including personnel costs, travel costs, equipment costs, contractual costs, and indirect costs. The proposed outcomes of the funding were to:
- Establish data linkages between K-12 and postsecondary partners by creating an electronic student transcript repository for K-12 education
- Create an interagency K-20 Data Governance Council
- Implement business intelligence and web reporting tools for users of K-20 data.
The 2015 SLDS grant awarded MOPI $3,484,164 for the purpose of creating a Montana data-use culture that will be implemented within the state’s education systems. This funding will be used to pay for the various costs associated with developing the effectiveness of a data system, including personnel costs, travel costs, equipment costs, contractual costs, and indirect costs. The proposed outcomes of the funding are to:
- Create long-term, direct partnerships with university researchers
- Increase teacher use of data to enhance teaching
 Information obtained from the Montana 2009 SLDS Grant nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/pdf/Montana2009.pdf
 Information obtained from the Montana 2012 SLDS Grant application nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/pdf/Montana2012.pdf
 Information obtained from Montana 2015 SLDS Grant abstract nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/pdf/MT_FY15_Abstract.pdf
Interested parties who wish to use data records contained within the GEMS data warehouse for research purposes must submit a data request to the MOPI that adheres to their data request process. The data request must contain the following information:
- Title of interested party and/or organization
- Contact information of interested party
- Intended audience of research effort
- Frequency of data requests
The data request may also contain the following information:
- Preference for aggregated or student level data records
- Types of schools and institutions that should be provided in data sets
- Filters that should be placed on data sets (i.e. school, county, grade, gender, etc.)
Data requests for student level data records will be reviewed for approval by the MOPI Data Privacy and Security Committee. As necessary, the MOPI legal staff and program staff from the department most closely associated to the research topic may be included in the review process. Researches can expect to be informed about the committee’s decision to accept or reject the data request in a timely manner. If the request is approved, the requester must complete the Research Project Confidentiality Agreement and send this to the MOPI Measurement and Accountability Division. Once a proposal is accepted, researchers and an appointed MOPI liaison will develop an agreement about the project’s objectives, deliverables, timelines, areas of responsibility, data security arrangements, authorship credit, and costs. This agreement must be signed by the researcher and approved by the MOPI liaison. Access to requested data will be granted after this approval is granted.
 Information obtained from Data Request Form listed on GEMS online portal gems.opi.mt.gov/_layouts/15/FormServer.aspx?XsnLocation=/FormServerTemplates/DataRequest.xsn
 Information obtained Research Request Form listed on GEMS online portal gems.opi.mt.gov/ContactUs/Documents/Research%20Proposal%20Application%20and%20Confidentiality.pdf
Public User Portal
The GEMS public user portal is operated for the purpose of providing useful aggregate level data about various education issues to interested parties within the state of Montana. These parties include administrators, educators, policy makers, parents, students and other parties interested in education outcomes within the state of Montana. The quality of this portal will be evaluated using several different criteria which include the user-friendliness of the portal, the extent of data offered by the portal, whether the portal is self-sufficient or relies upon other webpages to provide information, and the extent of customizable reports that can be created using the portal.
GEMS public user portal evaluation:
- The public user portal is straight forward to use, the home page of the portal provides a comprehensive description about the GEMS and the resources that are available to interested parties through the portal. The home page provides a “How to Use GEMS” tab which provides data definitions and explanations of data available in the portal, a user manual explaining how to properly use the portal, answers to frequently asked questions about the portal, and training documents on how to navigate through the portal.
- Extent of data offered:
- The public user portal provides information about both Montana’s K-12 public education system and higher education system. The portal contains the following K-12 data: general school and district information, program and course offerings, student achievement, student services, school finances, school staffing, student characteristics, and student engagement. The portal also contains college readiness data which assesses the education outcomes of students graduating from the K-12 education system and entering the Montana higher education system.
- Self-sufficiency of the portal:
- The public user portal provides direct access to each of the education categories and sub-categories listed on its homepage. The portal also provides links to additional resources such as the MOPIs online site and other related information sources.
- Extent of customizable reports that can be created through the portal
- The public user portal allows interested parties to customize the reports available through the portal by graduating cohort year, county, district or state level reporting, and grade level when appropriate. The portal also allows additional customization capabilities on certain reports such as race, ethnicity, gender, etc.
 Information for this section was obtained by analysis of the GEMS online portal gems.opi.mt.gov/Pages/HomePage.aspx
There are currently no legal statutes passed by the Montana legislature directly addressing the GEMSS, however, Montana statute 10.55.911 addresses information that relates to the information provided by the data system. This statute declares: 
(1) The high school transcript is the official academic record of the courses and credits completed by a high school student. At a minimum, the high school transcript must include:
(a) statewide student identifier;
(b) student legal name, address, gender, and date of birth;
(c) statewide school identifier, school name, school address, school phone, school system name, school system code, and school code;
(d) student grade level;
(e) student entry date and exit date;
(f) course code, course title, course grade, and credits earned for each school term and course taken;
(g) grade point average;
(h) graduation date;
(i) diploma type;
(j) class rank;
(k) number in class;
(l) for each test reported, the test date and the score for each portion of the test;
(m) academic honors, if applicable; and
(n) required number of credits for graduation.
This information will be collected and contained within the GEMS data warehouse. It will be accessible to state agents for the use of analyzing the effects of education policies and initiatives on student achievement and outcomes.
The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan national advocacy organization that evaluates each state’s longitudinal data system to determine how effectively each state uses their data system for education improvement purposes. The DQC’s annual survey, Data for Action (DFA), measures each state’s progress towards implementing the 10 Essential Elements of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems and the Ten State Actions to Ensure Effective Data Use, a set of elements and policy actions proposed to produce quality data systems and increase student achievement within in each state.
Montana has currently met each of the 10 essential elements:
- Element 1 – Statewide student identifier
- Element 2 – Student-level enrollment data
- Element 3 – Student-level test data
- Element 4 – Information on untested students
- Element 5 – Statewide teacher identifier with a teacher-student match
- Element 6 – Student-level course completion data
- Element 7 – Student-level SAT, ACT, and Advanced Placement exam data
- Element 8 – Student-level graduation and dropout data
- Element 9 – Ability to match student-level P-12 and higher education data
- Element 10 – State data audit system
Montana has currently met 7 of the 10 state actions:
- State Action 2 – Create stable, sustainable support for longitudinal data systems
- State Action 3 – Develop governance structures for longitudinal data systems
- State Action 4 – Build state data repositories
- State Action 7 – Create reports with longitudinal statistics to guide system-level change
- State Action 8 – Develop a purposeful research agenda
- State Action 10 – Promote strategies to raise awareness of available data
Montana has failed to meet the following state actions:
- State Action 1 – Link state K-12 data systems with early learning, workforce, and other critical state agency data systems
- State Action 5 – Provide timely, role-based access to data
- State Action 6 – Create progress reports with student-level data for educators, students, and parents
- State Action 9 – Implement policies and promote practices to build educators’ capacity to use data
Data Quality Campaign score: 6/10
It should be noted that that Data Quality Campaign assessed each state’s progress towards completing the state actions in 2014.
 DQC’s annual survey, Data for Action (DFA), is a powerful tool to inform efforts in education to better use data in decision making. It is a series of analyses that highlight state progress and key priorities to promote the effective use of longitudinal data to improve student achievement
 DQC’s 10 Essential Elements of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems and 10 State Actions to Ensure Effective Data Use provide a roadmap for state policymakers to create a culture of effective data use in which quality data are not only collected but also used to increase student achievement
Montana Office of Public Instruction
Phone: (406) 444-5222
This schematic is offered to provide a simplified, visual presentation of the GEMS and the channels through which data flows into and out of the SLDS. The entities on the far left side of the schematic represent the data record providers to the GEMS. The entities in the middle of the schematic represent the GEMS data warehouse and public user portal. The entities on the far right side of the schematic represent the parties intended to receive benefits from the outputs generated by the GEMS.
SLDS stakeholders listed under Contacts (above) have been provided a copy of this State Profile and given an opportunity to provide comments in response. No comments have been received for this state to date.