Pennsylvania recently became the second state in the nation to join the Schools Interoperability Framework Association (SIFA), taking advantage of the group’s state bulk membership program to extend the benefits of SIFA membership to its local districts.

Under the agreement, SIFA has extended memberships to all Intermediate Units across Pennsylvania, and through them, to all local education agencies in the state. The memberships entitle Pennsylvania’s school systems to tools and resources to help them implement SIF, allowing them to share information seamlessly among different offices and programs and update information in these programs simultaneously, rather than in a costly, piecemeal fashion. The Pennsylvania Department of Education also will embark on a statewide SIF implementation project to facilitate the reporting of school district information to state education officials.

“Each software company develops its own way of organizing and distributing information in their programs,” said Michael Golden, Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary for information and educational technology. “This has made it hard for software programs from different companies to work together … Lack of data sharing has often meant that different parts of the same school or district had to waste time re-entering the same data. It also has made maintaining consistent data across different programs difficult. SIF will allow us to fix these problems.”

In teaming up with SIFA, Pennsylvania has followed Virginia’s lead; Virginia became the first state SIFA member in December 2004. Virginia’s partnership with SIFA includes memberships for all 132 school divisions within the state, as well as a pilot SIF project in the Hanover County Public Schools. This pilot project will serve as a model for expansion of SIF into other Virginia school divisions. “Our statewide membership in SIFA serves to create awareness among our divisions and their vendors of our support for SIFA and encourages their participation in the development and adoption of this exciting new technology,” said Bethann Canada, director of education information management for the Virginia Department of Education.

SIFA’s state bulk membership program gives state education departments an opportunity to extend the benefits of SIFA membership–including access to exclusive resources for help in implementing SIF–to their local districts at a reduced cost. For more information, state education department officials should contact SIFA Executive Director Larry Fruth at lfruth@sifinfo.org.