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SIF Unity Specification (North America): errata published

Posted By Administration, Friday, August 30, 2019

SIF Unity (North America): errata published


It has been reported by A4L Community members that there were a few inconsistencies in the recent release of the SIF Data Model Specification 4.0 (also known as the Unity Specification), and the Community has been working hard to address them. 

We made the release designed for ease of adoption, even easier to move to!  Those who dive into the depths of the SIF Unity Errata are likely to get a bit confused... the changes are so subtle and designed to change the meaning zero percent, one might ask, “Why they exist?” The answer is ease of use.

Those working with system that are case insensitive won’t run into conflicts when leveraging the schemas to do common activities, such as generating code.  Also, in the errata you will find guidance on how to work around one conflict you may encounter, but we simply could not handle on our end.  So, if you are work with the Unity release, it may be easier to grab a copy dated June 24, 2019.

To review the SIF Unity Specification, please go to:



Tags:  2019  Data Model  errata  North America  Specification 

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The Global Education Privacy Standard (GEPS) is ready for prime time!

Posted By Penny Murray, Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Global Education Privacy Standard – or GEPS – is finally a reality and ready for prime time! 


SDPC-GEPSThe tool aligns contract clauses with technical obligations to meet those clauses and then allows you to map those obligations to control benchmarks from any source (IEEE, ISO, NIST, etc.) to create a machine readable XML Privacy Obligations Document (POD). The POD can accompany a contract between end user and vendor. 


What does that mean for you? 

If you are an end user it means you can instantly communicate the critical privacy expectations with your vendors beyond normal contract terms in an automated way.  Vendors benefit by getting enough information in the POD to deliver on the expectations of their customers and then be able to validate they fulfil their part in privacy stewardship. 


To find out more, please visit:


Tags:  2019  GEPS  Global Education Privacy Standard  SDPC 

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Migration 0: Making Unity the Obvious Choice

Posted By Penny Murray, Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Migration 0: Making Unity the Obvious Choice



For the North American market, the Unity Specification seeks to meet the SIF devotee where they are, and add value on top. 


As we listened to various stake holders we heard:

  • We must have backwards compatibility with the SIF 2 Data Model that we have built up and built on for the last two decades.
  • We want the more efficient and more easily built to REST based infrastructure underneath.
  • We demand a better mechanism to support option sets: as they evolve: as they are localized, and in particular tying them to CEDS.
  • We require those who adopted SIF 3 to be included, particularly those leveraging xPress Roster.
  • We aspire to be the first standard moving Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

Unity has all of the above features, making a migration path both reasonable and fruitful... yet the path is still unclear. 


We need some trailblazers, willing to help us put together a guidebook.  We hope to have chapters on how to: start fresh, leverage compatibility, and exchange data more robustly.  So, if you already consider yourself a guide or are willing to be one of our great trailblazers, make sure your membership is up to date, then join the Migration team!


For further information, please contact John Lovell, Technology Director (


Tags:  2019  Community  migration  North America  working group 

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'Unity’ Specification enters Community Review

Posted By Penny Murray, Friday, March 29, 2019

'Unity’ Specification enters Community Review


SIFSpecThe Access 4 Learning (A4L) Community, is now proud to cause a new “buzz” – the best of the best from 20 years of interoperability specifications to address school needs and allow for states and vendors to implement the US Department of Education’s Common Education Data Standards (CEDS).  The new Specification – code named “Unity” – is built using 20 years of experience by our more than 3,000 volunteer members developed using open, non-proprietary and transparent processes linked to a quality control Certification Program.  It contains the most comprehensive K12 data model and modern transport technologies to securely move the data to provide it to the right person at the right time in the right way under local data privacy policies.

The North American Technical Board (NATB) has set out to provide the market with an incremental path forward… and the recipe is simple!.  This draft Specification includes data objects from the (NA) 2.8 Data Model; xPress Roster objects; IEP objects; Address and Student Program Association objects; Support of UUIDs and legacy GUIDs; Pluggable Code Sets & Extension Points throughout; and CEDS Mapping.

The Community Review is currently slated to run from March 28 – April 14, 2019 (inclusive).  ALL North American Community Members are encouraged to provide their approval/feedback before COB on April 14 and will need to login to the website to access the survey here.


Tags:  2019  Community Review  Specification  Unity 

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If you have not seen the State Student Privacy Report Card, the grades are not good...

Posted By Penny Murray, Friday, February 1, 2019

If you have not seen the State Student Privacy Report Card, the grades are not good...

You may have seen the recent release of the State Student Privacy Report Card which analyzes the thoroughness and quality of student-data privacy laws passed in the LogoU.S. in the past five years.  If you have not seen it, the grades are not good.  On the one hand it shows that there is a lot of work to be done on the legislative front regarding student privacy, it also does not address or advocate for supporting the “on the ground” realities schools and districts face every day in their roles as data stewards.

This “you should…” versus “you can by…” is the reason that the Student Data Privacy Consortium (SDPC) was initiated.  All the legislation, pledges, promises, suggested guidelines and signatories have elevated the conversation around student data privacy but not the “how” to act to ensure it.  The three key activities being addressed by this non-profit, membership driven community of thousands of schools, dozens of states, numerous countries AND marketplace providers are tactical with possible immediate how to impact:

  1. Privacy Contract Vetting: The Common Contract Framework is a set of tools allowing schools to manage their numerous applications, streamline contracting for them, and workflow from the identification of an application to its implementation in a school/district – and everyone informed throughout!  There are now 7 State Alliances using the same contract clauses for all vendors.  That is critical mass!
  2. Privacy Effective Practice Development and Sharing: The Digital Tools Governance project provides a “how to” develop any privacy policy, procedure, process in addressing issues in each digital ecosystem.  You can craft teacher PD, FERPA 101 for vendors, data breech policies, vendor engagement, etc. – you pick the topic!  You can then share your product with the rest of the Community.
  3. Technical Privacy Expectations: The Global Education Privacy Standard (GEPS) will allow the legalese in contracts to be converted into technical requirements so suppliers can get the relevant information they need from their customers and allow them to prove the adherence to those contract terms.  This is a collaborative effort between the SDPC and the technical wizards of the Access 4 Learning Community and their SIF Technical Specifications.

To see if your state has an SDPC Alliance (there are 22 now with more coming in each week) you can be a part of, or are interested in learning more about the tools, community and support in your tactical student privacy issues drop us a line.  Don’t wait on legislation to fix this!



Tags:  2019  external  State Privacy Report Card 

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It’s that time of the year... no, I am not talking about the holidays!

Posted By Penny Murray, Thursday, January 17, 2019

It’s that time of the year... no, I am not talking about the holidays!


It’s time to hit the road to start the 2019 education conference season – a season that never seems to end!  This year we start out with the UK’s BETT and the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) from January 27-30 in sunny Orlando, Florida.  Looking at the sessions and vendors for both gatherings, it is very apparent that student data privacy is once again a “hot topic” for those who will be attending the festivities. 


FPF-SDPC_logoIf you are off to Florida we want to make the conference season a great kickoff to your calendar year – and it costs you nothing!  The Access 4 Learning Community, via it’s Special Interest Group the Student Data Privacy Consortium (SDPC) are thrilled to Join with the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) provide a free ‘Student Privacy Boot Camp’ for districts and marketplace providers.  This interactive event will outline the various privacy considerations for your role, privacy resources, and strategies that you could easily employ to protect students and link you to an international network of practitioners that are doing the same each day – just like you! 

January 28, 2019

Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), 

Orlando, FL


If you want support in all aspects of student privacy in your role in the classroom, overseeing data management, reporting and communications or need some immediate ‘tactical’ data privacy suggestions and/or tools that you can use immediately when you get back to your school this event is for you – and FREE!


Places are limited, so REGISTER TODAY.  To download the event flyer, please click here.


To see the latest on privacy policy, legislation, in the news and almost everything else to inform your work as a data steward check out the FPF resources.  If you want tools, strategies and a more than 1,500 school peer group support for your work check out the SDPC resources.



Tags:  2019  A4L Community  boot camp  event  FPF  privacy  SDPC 

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Data Access and Data Privacy – It is NOT an “either/or” Conversation

Posted By Penny Murray, Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Data Access and Data Privacy – It is NOT an “either/or” Conversation

edwebinarI have been ask a lot lately about the work of the Access 4 Learning (A4L) Community in the development of technical blueprints for interoperability that allows data to flow seamless between applications and the growing work of the Special Interest Group the Student Data Privacy Consortium (SDPC) working to protect student data access.  Are they not in competition with each other?


Not at all. Actually they compliment each other.   Even if you envision them at opposite ends of a kids teeter totter, we all should be looking at the center pivot point for the perfect location for allowing for the management, movement and safe keeping of data for our youngest citizens.  I agree, and have used the scenario that interoperability can allow for the violation of all US FERPA and EU GDPR laws and privacy can “lock down” with un-intentional consequences for those who need access including teaching practitioners and even parents,  the goal is about control over the data for the right person at the right time.  The more you look at how openly developed technical standards, like the SIF Specifications, can allow for privacy control the more you learn about the empowerment that data stewards can have in their digital ecosystems.


I will be writing much more talking about this balance and some “effective practice” stories from our global community in the near future but thought I would invite you to a edWebinar, hosted by the Leadership and Innovation community:


Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time

Data Access Is Easier Than Ever: Is That a Good Thing?

Sponsored by the Education Networks of America (ENA) and CatchOn


Besides this webinar, there are multiple opportunities to get linked to your peers in addressing empowerment via both interoperability and data privacy.  Come listen in to this free session and ideally you will walk away wanting more information on how the A4L and SDPC Community can support your balancing act!



Tags:  2019  CatchOn  data privacy  ENA  SDPC  webinar 

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2019 A4L Community North American Elections

Posted By Penny Murray, Wednesday, January 2, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Announcement to Membership: 2019 A4L Community North American Elections


The Access 4 Learning (A4L) Community has continued to have phenomenal leadership over the past year.  The leadership, guidance and overall dedication to the Community prove critical to our collective successes. With the upcoming 2019 Annual Meeting, it is hard to believe that it is time for elections again!  Nominations for the North American Management Board and At-Large Technical Board will be available from January 31 -February 28, 2019 (inclusive).

The Management Board is elected for two-year terms.  This year there will be seven (7) seats open for the Management Board.  To be eligible to run for the Management Board, the individuals shall be at least eighteen (18) years old and be A4L Community Voting Participants or employed by or representing an A4L Community Voting Participant and duly authorized to represent that A4L Community Voting Participant, but need not be residents of the District of Columbia.  An A4L Community Voting Participant Member institution (including associated subsidiaries of an A4L Community Voting Participant) may have at most one representative on the Management Board at one time.

The At-Large Technical Board is elected for a one-year term.  There are four (4) seats open for the At-Large Technical Board members.  At-Large Technical Board members must be A4L Community Voting Participants or employed by or represent an A4L Community Voting Participant and duly authorized to represent that A4L Community Voting Participant.

You can download the policies and procedures for the Annual Elections as outlined by the Elections Committee on the A4L Community Site here (login required).

For the 2019 A4L Community North American Annual Election process, the following dates apply:

  • 2 January 2019Announcement to membership that elections will occur
  • 31 January 2019 Nominations open
  • 28 February 2019Nominations close
  • by 7 March 2019Elections Committee convenes to confirm ballot
  • 13 March 2019:  Ballot released
  • 27 March 2019Voting closes at 5:00 pm Eastern
  • 28 March 2019Elections Committee convenes to confirm results
  • 4 April 2019Elections results announced during the NA 2019 Annual Meeting

We will use a virtual election tool and all nominations must be submitted electronically.  The Primary Business Contact will be the official vote for each A4L Community Voting Participant, unless a designee is provided.  Please contact Penny Murray,, to confirm your Primary Business Contact, or organization ‘designee’ for the 2019 NA Elections.

We will send out information to submit your nomination beginning on 31 January 2019.  Please consider nominating yourself, asking someone to nominate you or nominate someone else to run for one of these leadership positions within the A4L Community!

Any queries relating to the North America 2019 Election process or procedures, please contact Larry Fruth.

Tags:  2019  Community  elections  North America 

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Call for volunteers: North American 2019 Elections Committee

Posted By Penny Murray, Wednesday, November 14, 2018

VolunteersCall for volunteers: North American 2019 Elections Committee

The A4L Community are seeking members to serve on the North American (NA) Elections Committee. As a Committee member you will be helping the A4L Community by overseeing the election process, assisting in conducting the election process and reviewing the policies and procedures on behalf of the Association members.

For the 2019 SIF Association NA Annual Election process, there will be three (3) Committee meetings scheduled.  If you are interested in serving on the NA Elections Committee, please contact Penny Murray by Tuesday 27 November 2018.

Tags:  2019  A4L Community  elections  North America 

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Request for Proposal (RFP) bid opportunity: Iowa Department of Education

Posted By Administration, Friday, September 7, 2018

Iowa_DoERequest for Proposal (RFP) bid opportunity: Iowa Department of Education


We have been advised of the following Request for Proposal (RFP) from Iowa Department of Education.  Any queries relating to this RFP should be made directly with the relevant contacts contained within the RFP document.


The Iowa Department of Administrative Services (DAS), on behalf of the Iowa Department of Education (IDOE), wants to inform you of a Request for Proposal (RFP) bid opportunity for a State-wide, vendor-hosted Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF) solution.   IDOE anticipates an SaaS solution that will establish a single SIF data collection system.  A single, unified Operational Data Store (ODS) would be integrated with the single data collection system.  If your organization is interested in this RFP opportunity or, if you know of other companies that may be interested, the complete RFP bid information and documents can be accessed at:  


NOTE: Vendors with questions or comments about the RFP must submit them by 12PM Noon Central on Sept. 14, 2018. (See page one of the RFP for details.)


Further RFP schedule details can be found on the first two pages of the RFP document.


Deadline for the State to receive contractor proposals for the opportunity is 12PM NOON Central on WEDNESDAY, OCT. 17, 2018.


Thank you for your interest.


Tags:  2018  Iowa  Request for Proposal  RFP 

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  • SIF Association (dba Access 4 Learning (A4L) Community)

  • PO Box 1024, New Albany, Ohio 43054-1024

  • Phone: +1.202.621.0547