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Helping States Utilize GIS Mapping and Data to Inform Policy
Geographic information system mapping (GIS) is a tool used for gathering, managing, and analyzing data. Organizations use GIS mapping to make maps that share information visually through geography that integrate a variety of data. As states look to re-engage students and focus on learning recovery, this information has been useful and timely for informing policy in today’s pandemic context.
In 2014, with the support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, NCSL began to invite statewide afterschool networks to apply for a competitive grant opportunity. Statewide afterschool networks refer to a diverse group of organizations and stakeholders that work together to share best practices and advocate for afterschool and summer learning programs in their state. The goal of this initiative was to help statewide networks collect and compile relevant afterschool and summer learning data and effectively share the data with state legislators, legislative staff, other key state policymakers and stakeholders. Through these grants, afterschool networks are encouraged to connect data from afterschool and summer learning programs to broader state education policy priorities. In order to ensure that data projects are aligned with the data points that can most effectively inform policy decisions, priority has been given to applications that include letters of support from at least one state legislator. With technical assistance from NCSL, 39 states have collected new and compiled existing state-specific afterschool and summer learning data and shared it widely with state legislators and other key stakeholders via written reports and/ or data release events.
Many afterschool networks have decided to create GIS Maps of programs with overlays. Policymakers and other stakeholders can use these maps to visualize where the need for afterschool and/or summer programming is high. These overlays have shown aspects such as concentrations of poverty, demographic information, educational attainment, and juvenile justice referrals. For example, the California Afterschool Network (CAN) developed an application that maps variables describing student and community health and need. While looking at where expanded learning programs are located variables such as legislative districts or COVID-19 resources can be overlayed.
Other states have utilized these grants to produce return-on-investment (ROI) reports. These reports are able to measure the benefit versus the cost of providing afterschool and summer programs to students. According to Vermont’s ROI report, “every $1 invested in Vermont afterschool and summer learning programs leads to a return on investment of $2.18”. Georgia and Kansas also conducted ROI studies.
NCSL recently wrapped up with their 2020 grant cohort (KY, ME, MD, NV, and UT) and has just announced the 2021 data grant recipients. In total, 39 states have received data grants over the last seven years. The 2021 round includes three new states and, for the first time, returning states. Recently, data grants have been opened to past recipients to expand on their existing projects or create new ones. This cohort will have five returning state afterschool networks receiving a data grant.
Congratulations to the 2021 Grant Recipients
States plan to collect data on community schools, comprehensive summer programs, and afterschool program locations. Additionally, these mapping projects will also add several overlays to existing maps, including health disparities, demographics, mental health resources, supports for students with disabilities, funding streams, and more.
Stay tuned for their finished projects this fall!