Developing a Master Data Sharing Agreement: Seeking Student-Level Evidence to Support a Collaborative Community Effort in Education

Journal Article by Neil E. Carlson, Edwin Hernandez, Chana Edmond-Verley, Gustavo Rotondaro, Eleibny Feliz-Santana, Susan Heynig
December 31, 2011

Community Data & Research Lab at the Johnson Center   (Grand Rapids)

A private foundation, a public school system, and a state university joined forces to address a difficult, long-standing challenge: closing the academic achievement gap between urban and suburban students.

· All parties agreed that sharing of longitudinal, student-level data was required to drive and evaluate multiple efforts to close the gap, but significant technical, regulatory, and political obstacles stood in the way.

· The parties worked through multiple challenges and forged a Master Data Sharing Agreement (MDSA) that will facilitate both daily intelligence for program staff and powerful post-hoc research capacity.

· This MDSA text has been released online for your use under the Creative Commons license (see

· Reaching the agreement required a shared vision, definitive research, genuine trust, true alignment, dogged patience, ample investment, iterative development, selfless collaboration, careful coordination, and fidelity to a common language: data.