Educational Data: Vertical vs. Longitudinal Reporting

Someone asked me a basic question which, at first, I thought was obvious and then upon asking around discovered was not so obvious. In the State enterprise data system conversation, what is the difference between “vertical reporting” and “longitudinal reporting”?

The answer is simple and complex: time and space.

First, space: “vertical reporting” refers to the movement of data between organizations at different levels of hierarchy in their area. For instance, many schools belong to a district, many districts belong to a regional service center, and many regional service centers belong to a state (some states skip the regionals). Vertical reporting is the movement of data up that chain of organizations: school data go UP to district which transmits them UP to the state. Sometimes people will talk about “vertical interoperability” which means data can go both ways.

Second, time: “Longitudinal reporting” refers to the reporting, acquisition, and display of data that have a time element to them. It is often represented by graphs. For instance the change in enrollment over the last ten years would be an example of longitudinal reporting. Longitudinal reporting is the reporting of data with a time element attached and used as a dimension.

When people refer to longitudinal data systems (as in LDS Grants) they are referring to systems that almost always have a vertical and a longitudinal component to them.

Alex Jackl, CEO, Bardic Systems, Inc.