In one way I am glad that interoperability and privacy is once again becoming a “hot button” topic for conversation in the wild world of education. While the two terms might make may in schools roll their eyes, throw up their hands, or turn a blind eye, they are becoming more and more a concern in the everyday lives of student data stewards globally. Items in the news, new organizations playing a role in the topic and even additional funding opportunities from outside sources can help support the right data getting to the right place at the right time under local control.
The other side of this coin is that, like fashion, this has been a topic really since 1997 when the origins of many of the technical standards organizations were formed by various communities to support the needs around data interoperability and in some cases privacy. The SIF Association, now the Access 4 Learning Community, was the first group focused and driven by K12 end users demanding marketplace providers to address their growing data management issues at the local and state level. So, in essence the topics are not “new” but elevating the awareness factor can benefit us all.
But that is only part of the story. I am very proud of the thousands of organizations, volunteer hours, membership dues support and the community involvement that has been driving the work of this Community for now more than 20 years.
I mentioned to an outstanding group of educational support agencies last week that in my tenure at A4L, I have seen more than 37 national projects, supported by hundreds of millions of dollars, fail in their attempts to move the marketplace, support schools and states, or systemically change how we address the roles of the data stewards. Generally, they either had no established and vested community just an end product or they had a community with no clear “what does success look like” in mind.
A4L and the SIF Specifications are in that way VERY different. With our tiny staff the community determines the technical issues to address, the community does the technical development and the community gets the word out on the need for standardized data interoperability strategies – not driven by a staff or one or two vendors. It is written into our By-Laws! It means the specification development might take longer but we have transparent governance, development processes and community resources allocations for any to view.
Look soon for the next Community technical blueprint, codenamed “Unity”, to be released which will allow the thousands of applications using the previous SIF Specifications an easy lift to a new modern infrastructure, a data model aligned to the Common Education Data Standard, additional privacy controls in a Global Educational Privacy Standard, and the inclusion of standardized xPress API functionalities currently being used on the ground for rostering, student records exchange, IEP and soon grade pass back.
I am proud of this Community. The work is Community driven, Community resourced and Community developed around transparent processes – for over 20 years of learning impact!