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Breaking School Data Silos with Ed-Fi

by Jackie Davis

Digital tools are flooding classrooms making daily tasks easier for both students and teachers, but what happens to the data produced by these systems? Well, nothing if the school doesn’t have the right tools. School districts are producing and collecting mass amounts of data, and as that data piles up, they are struggling to analyze and use it because each application has a separate data set that is nearly impossible to share.

Ed-Fi, a data standard that launched in July of 2011, is working to change this. The open-source data framework is designed to connect a district’s various software applications, so data can be shared and utilized. According to Portland Public Schools CIO Don Wolff, Ed-Fi is the “gold standard” for education data framework.

“It’s my holy grail that we would get a data standard and transfer method in K-12,” Wolff said, “because we have no real solid frameworks that say ’this is what thou shalt do and this is what it should look like.’ It’s very different from the banking industry or the healthcare industry. Ed-Fi is the closest thing and we’re getting there.”

With Ed-Fi, districts can transfer data from paper to digital forms, link EdTech applications from different vendors, and share data that was once siloed. When the Ed-Fi standard is applied to school applications, it sets a common set of rules for systems to talk to each other, allowing leaders to make more educated, data-driven decisions.

According to Sean Casey, Ed-Fi Alliance manager of strategic partnerships, Ed-Fi is open-source and constantly evolving based on educator input. Schools that have digital applications that need integration should look to the Ed-Fi standard to streamline data accessibility. Once implemented, it’s important for schools to only acquire new solutions that can adhere to the Ed-Fi standards promoting visibility and collaboration.

“That makes it a no-brainer and it’s really easy to set up and move forward with us,” Wolff said.

To learn more about digital tools impacting the classroom, click here.

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