The Illinois Longitudinal Data System: An Implementation Network Case Study
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) received a grant of approximately $10 million from the ETA for a three year project. Concurrent with the receipt of the grant, the Illinois General Assembly passed the P-20 Longitudinal Education Data System Act (P-20 Act), codifying the requirements of the ETA grant as law in the State of Illinois. As Illinois has three separate autonomous education boards, a board for workforce development and numerous education-related stakeholder groups, the ETA grant and the P-20 Act served as focusing events to form a new education policy network in the state. This network would undertake coordinated action and resource exchanges across multiple government agencies and private sector associations to comply with the grant and new state law. This research examines the intergovernmental collaboration that transpired during the State of Illinois’ SLDS implementation project.
Extant documents, including presentations, meeting minutes and other source materials, were leveraged to study the SLDS implementation. All materials were gathered from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) website, the designated repository for all project materials.
Four distinct themes emerged related to collaboration activities for the network. These themes emphasis the importance of resource control, actor motivation, common goals, and boundary spanners in 1) influencing the behavior of network actors, 2) creating trust between actors across sectors and government agencies, 3) moderating the influence of social sector, and 4) exceeding minimum project expectations.
The findings suggest that grant requirements and democratic anchorage alone are not sufficient to garner support for cross-system collaboration. Policy tools may initiate action; however, motivation, subscription to common goals, access to resources, and social capital may be required to engender collaboration, rather than achieve mere compliance with grant requirements and state laws.
Case studies such as this allow exploration of the impact of policy tools, such as federal grants and state laws, on network formation and collaborative relationships. Gaining insight into network formation and collaboration can help networks build capacity for future projects as well as sustain existing initiatives. Further, this knowledge can help policymakers at the state and federal levels design policies that can be more readily implemented when collaboration is required between the complex, multi-tiered education governance structures and private stakeholders present in many states.