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Mary Ann Miller Bates is named executive director of California’s Cradle-to-Career system

California’s new effort to develop a statewide education data system officially has its first executive director. Mary Ann Miller Bates, a senior fellow in the White House Office of Management and Budget, will lead Cradle-to-Career, a new state data system that aims to connect the state’s fragmented data on the education of students in the state from pre-K through college to career. The goal is to provide trend data that will help students and their families with career and college planning.

The hiring of Bates occurred in a closed session during the board’s second-ever meeting, which was held over Zoom. The closed session lasted about 30 minutes, and the board’s attending members voted unanimously for Miller Bates. Two members of the 21-member board, Sean Elo-Rivera and John Laird, were not present. The new system’s board includes 21 legislators, education leaders and advocates.

Miller Bates was previously the executive director and founding deputy director of Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, a nonprofit that seeks to “reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence.” She is also a former Fulbright scholar.

Miller Bates was selected from among three candidates two weeks ago with plans to negotiate a final contract and return to the board for an official hire.

A spokesperson for the board did not respond to EdSource’s request for Miller Bates’ contract including her salary and start date.

Advocates have long pushed for California to implement such a system. Plans call for it to be in place by 2023.

The project’s work will include linking a slew of data systems that contain much of the information so that a student’s education experience can be accessed and analyzed. The state plans to cobble together a comprehensive set of dashboards from data collected from early childhood education, pre-K-12 schools and the state’s public colleges and universities. The information will not be identified by student but rather will describe trends.

The earliest phases will focus on education and workforce data that is expected to be available within a year or two, while social services and health information is expected within five years.

In a presentation to the board on Nov. 30, Miller Bates detailed her plans for her first year and her first 100 days if she were chosen as executive director. The two other candidates also addressed the board with their ideas.

Her first year, according to the presentation, would include hiring additional Cradle-to-Career staff, designing data dashboards and submitting a budget to the governing board. The presentation also included questions she would try to understand within the first few months in the position, such as: “How agile can we make our process?” and “Why did prior efforts over the past decades to build a statewide longitudinal data system in California fail?”