Fresh thinking about data entry can reduce the burden for educators


Teacher. Classroom facilitator. Database analyst? This new role for educators is a direct outcome of the data-driven classroom and the quest for accountability.

While teachers may understand the need to collect information, they resent inputting the same data over and over again in every learning management system, educational application and state and federal accountability report. More importantly, the data entry can seem pointless when the outcomes aren’t applicable to the students.

In a recent webinar for edWeb, Tracy Weeks, executive director of SETDA (State Educational Technology Directors Association), and her co-presenters discussed how implementing data interoperability standards can turn data from a daily chore into a productive tool that can provide educators with a more complete picture of the student, class, school and district.

Typically, at the beginning of the school year, teachers have limited information about their students; they have to build a profile of their students over time, which wastes instructional hours when they could be developing more targeted lessons and growth plans.

The goal of data interoperability, according to Maureen Wentworth, manager for strategic partnership at the Ed-Fi Alliance, is for every educator to be able to see and use their data immediately, from every program, regardless of platform. Key characteristics include real-time updates, quality data in and out, educator and school control of the data, and flexibility in reporting.

Wentworth emphasized that no single standard can do all of the work due to the scope of data needed across K-12 as well as the breadth of technical applications and complexity. However, when the programs can talk to each other and teachers can access the data they need from a single dashboard, then the data is working for the students and teachers instead of becoming a burden.

In collaboration with the Ed-Fi Alliance, SETDA is examining how to leverage that shared data for academic excellence. Comprised of a coalition of state teams, private sector partners and interoperability leaders, SETDA’s working group looked at three key areas: the future state of teaching and learning with interoperable data, the importance of interoperable data and how states can achieve it.

Furthermore, the members developed use cases for the new standards, such as student transfer information, personalized learning and learning object repository. The idea, Weeks said, is to understand how data can be used to support and even improve the school and classroom, rather than just viewing it as a reporting object.

Making the data work for educators in Georgia

Angela Baker, a digital content manager for the Georgia Department of Education, shared examples of how her state’s system has aided students and teachers.

Launched in 2011, the SLDS-One Integrated Solution is more than a longitudinal data system. Among other resources, it is a repository for professional development and digital student curriculum; student rosters, schedules, and demographics; and attendance and grades.

An essential feature of the SLDS is that the different applications not only talk to each other, but the data elements are the same at every level (teacher, school and district), improving usability. Moreover, the system can accommodate any file type due to the interoperable nature of the platform and also uses a standard set of metadata to organize resources.

Inspired by Georgia’s platform, Nebraska is also working toward a statewide interoperability system.

Establishing a data-driven foundation for instruction in Nebraska

Dean R. Folkers, chief information officer for the Nebraska Department of Education, admitted that his state’s previous focus was on accountability only. A state review found, though, that staff spent over 655,000 hours a year on those submissions. In addition, Nebraska districts had unequal access to state systems depending on size, and despite the money spent on technology, there was inequity across the districts.

Moving forward, Nebraska’s plan includes reducing the burden on staff, increasing privacy and security, and making sure that the data is supporting teaching and learning.

Ultimately, the goal for these initiatives and others is to create a digital ecosystem where interoperability is more than an efficient reporting system but a foundation for effective teaching and learning.

Join the community

Essential Elements for Digital Content is a free professional learning community that provides policy makers, school administrators and educator leaders a better understanding of policies and practices related to digital instructional materials.

This broadcast was hosted by and SETDA.

The recording of the edWebinar can be viewed by anyone here.