In a major advancement for the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF)–a set of standards for transferring student data seamlessly and automatically from one software program to another, regardless of platform or manufacturer–the Wyoming Department of Education is moving forward with the first fully statewide implementation of SIF-compliant technology.

When completed, the new system–called the Wyoming Integrated Statewide Education Data System (WISE)–will give decision-makers from the classroom to the state capitol access to timelier and more accurate student information, organizers say.

Any time a student changes schools or moves to a new district within the state, officials explain, that student’s entire history of academic information will be able to be shared instantly with his or her new school via the WISE data system, allowing for a seamless transition.

Wyoming’s system is unusual in that it not only will allow schools to share information across districts, but it also will use SIF to transfer information from districts to the state education department, thereby simplifying the required reporting.

Wyoming is spending nearly $4 million to bring the technology to each of its 48 school districts–but state officials say it will save many more times this amount by eliminating the need for school staff members to re-enter data into multiple software applications and reports.

The five-year project is being led by ESP Solutions Group, a K-12 data systems integrator, in conjunction with its partners, Edustructures and eScholar. The system will consist of a next-generation state reporting system from ESP; eScholar’s SIF-based unique identifier system; Edustructure’s Zone Integrated Servers; and the installation and configuration of up to 10 SIF agents (connection points) for every district.

"Wyoming understands that establishing a student identifier and locator system is an essential building block for using data to help children get a better education," said Shawn Bay, chief executive officer of eScholar, which provides student identification and data warehousing solutions for K-12 education.

"Implementing this system will reduce the state’s reporting burden, enabling Wyoming educators to spend more time using reporting results to make decisions that support increasing student achievement," Bay said.

Separate programs that manage everything from library access to bus routes usually require school personnel to spend valuable time typing the same data over and over. Often, entries for the same student are not aligned, and changes–such as a new home address or phone number–might not make it into all programs.

SIF aims to solve these problems. By creating a single communications interface and a common way to share data, it eliminates the need for duplicate data entry. More importantly, when a district’s software programs can communicate and transmit data that are aligned from program to program in real time, school officials can make better-informed decisions by generating comprehensive, accurate reports, its advocates say.

Since 1999, a nonprofit consortium of technology companies and school districts has been developing the standard, and it has been available in some educational software since 2003–but so far, only a few hundred schools or districts have implemented SIF technology.

Initial set-up costs and a lack of awareness have hindered the standard’s more widespread adoption among schools. But organizers believe the WISE project could contribute to changing that.

Oklahoma and Virginia also have outlined SIF plans, but none as comprehensive as Wyoming’s project.

Oklahoma recently mandated the use of SIF-certified products in its schools, and Virginia purchased SIF memberships for its 132 school divisions to help them become aware of and prepare for SIF. Virginia also is piloting a SIF implementation at the Hanover County Public Schools, which it hopes to use as a model for its remaining school divisions.

Links:

Wyoming Department of Education
http://www.k12.wy.us

Schools Interoperability Framework
http://www.sifinfo.org

ESP Solutions Group
http://www.espsolutionsgroup.com

eScholar
http://www.escholar.com

Edustructures
http://www.edustructures.com