Michigan Education Data Center an invaluable tool for research

December 1, 2020

Does waiting a year to start kindergarten lead to better academic outcomes? How does participation in summer youth employment impact high school graduation and college enrollment? What career pathways are students pursuing?

Researchers from around the country have been working with the Education Policy Initiative (EPI), pursuing these questions and dozens more using the database and tools of the Michigan Education Data Center (MEDC). Since 2012-13, 87 research projects were approved to use Michigan education data. There are currently 51 education research projects ongoing, focused on a broad number of topics including, early childhood education, school choice and mobility, literacy, P-20 pathways, and college success. 

MEDC is the repository for millions of education records from across the state of Michigan, gathered in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI). The secure data clearinghouse is a comprehensive data source, built out using University of Michigan’s ITS infrastructure, and made available for academic investigation. It is a unique research practitioner partnership. The goal is to encourage scholarship that significantly improves outcomes for all children in the state of Michigan. That scholarship can also be applied to education systems all over the country.

"This powerful resource brings together researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to solve pressing questions, and improve the lives of the children in our state and beyond," says Ford School Dean Michael Barr.

MEDC is one pillar of the Michigan Education Research Institute (MERI), a collaborative of U-M, Michigan State University (MSU), MDE and CEPI. MERI also includes MSU’s Education Policy Innovation Collaborative, which works closely with MDE to develop its research agenda, produce robust research, and quick turnaround analyses for the State. 

MDE Chief Deputy Superintendent, Sheila Alles has said that becoming a Top 10 Education State in 10 years “takes  knowledge of what is happening in our schools now; learning what has proven successful; and using that to develop better practices for all educators and students." 

MEDC is currently supported in large part by grants from Arnold Ventures, the Institute of Education Sciences, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

"The MERI partnership and Michigan Education Data Center can empower and equip our leaders with the research they need to make evidence-based decisions that advance just and equitable learning opportunities, assessments, and educational systems," says Dean of the U-M School of Education Elizabeth Birr Moje.

Expanding its impact, U-M’s ITS and data science resources have been leveraged  to securely house and be linked to data from other sources around the state. MEDC has developed probabilistic matching that helps researchers match their data with existing MEDC elements.   

Some of the recent research findings: 

  • 18% of third graders in Michigan have had contact with child protective services for the purposes of investigating maltreatment reports. (Jacob & Ryan, 2018, Child Maltreatment and Academic Performance
  • 11% of students in Michigan are likely to be either literally homeless or “doubled up” for economic reasons between kindergarten and twelfth grade. Black and Hispanic students are almost twice as likely than white students. (Evangelist & Shaefer, 2019, No Place Called Home Report)
  • 25% of K-12 students who reside in Detroit attend a public school outside of the district. Those students who leave Detroit schools often do so due to school quality issues, teacher turnaround rates, higher rates of school discipline, and neighborhood residential instability. Those students residing in neighborhoods where most of the school-aged children attend a neighborhood school are less likely to leave. (Lenhoff, 2019, Student Exit From Detroit Report)

"The goal of MEDC is to make sure that Michigan's education data is used to answer the toughest questions facing educators, school leaders, parents, and policy makers in the state and nationwide. We do this by attracting and supporting talented researchers from all over the country," says EPI faculty lead Professor Kevin Stange.

With some 20 universities around the country currently working on approved projects, MEDC is poised for further reach as researchers use the Michigan data to answer critical questions that improve educational outcomes across the nation.