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The History and Landscape of Education Data Standards

by Gary Clarke | Mar 10, 2015

National Standards

The National Center for Education Statistics is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education. NCES established a working group in 2009 to develop an Education Data Standard as a national collaborative effort to develop common data standards for a key set of education data elements to streamline the exchange, comparison, and understanding of data within and across education institutions and sectors.

The Common Education Data Standards project is an initiative by NCES to develop a shared vocabulary across P-20W (Preschool, Grade 20 or higher education, Workforce) education institutions. The standard started by reviewing and incorporating definitions from existing efforts includes the NCES Handbooks, Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF), Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (PESC), Education Data Exchange Network (EDEN), Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and others. CEDS is now in its 5th version.

The precursor solution for solving the education data interoperability problem was the Schools Interoperability Framework by the SIF Association, which started out as an experiment by Microsoft. It failed to gain national momentum partly because it was controlled by companies who did not provide a free reference implementation, although it is still available and actively developed.

CEDS Implementation Standards

Two organizations were then formed to develop the technical implementation standards (including XML specifications) for CEDS, focusing on K-12 Education.

The first, the Shared Learning Collaborative (also known as EdSurge), was founded in 2011 as a non-profit corporation with $100 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York. In 2012 they began a pilot program with districts in five states with four more states to be added in the following year. In 2013, the organization was renamed to InBloom. It then came under considerable criticism from parents and states regarding the collection and use of private information, resulting in six of the nine states that had signed up withdrawing from the program. In 2014, it was announced that the InBloom Student Data Repository would close.

The second, the Ed-Fi Alliance, was announced in 2013, after being started as the Ed-Fi initiative in 2011 by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. The Ed-Fi solution is a free K-12 education data standard and tool suite that comprises three components: a unified data model, a data exchange and application framework, and sample dashboard source code.

With the demise of InBloom, the Ed-Fi Alliance is now the only major player for delivering a solution framework based on CEDS.

Commercial Solutions

eScholar is the market leader in commercial solutions for integrating data from various data sources into a central educational data warehouse. Their primary products are the Complete Data Warehouse for PK-12 (CDW-PK12) and Complete Data Warehouse for Postsecondary (CDW-PS). In 2012, eScholar became an early adopter of the Ed-Fi Tool Suite, and retooled their CDW-PK12 product to be powered by Ed-Fi. eScholar is used by 3,600 school districts and 13 state education agencies.

Texas Education Agency and PEIMS

The Texas Education Agency is the state agency that oversees primary and secondary public education. TEA administers the collection of Public Education Information Management System data from Local Education Agencies (school districts and charter schools). PEIMS was established in 1985 by legislature that hoped to bring greater public accountability to the educational community. All LEAs are required to submit information three times a year through PEIMS for the legislature and the TEA to perform their legally authorized functions. Technical support for gathering the data from district databases is supplied by one of the twenty education service centers (ESCs) or by private vendors. The major categories of data collected are:

  • organizational
  • budget
  • actual financial
  • staff
  • student demographic
  • school leaver
  • student attendance
  • course completion
  • discipline

TEA produces public Texas Academic Performance Reports (TAPR) of LEA student performance using the submitted PEIMS data. Prior to the introduction of TAPR in school year 2012/2013, the Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) was the system used for public reports.

Texas Student Data System

Core issues with collecting data from LEAs has long been identified with the legacy system. Chief among these is that it is time consuming and expensive for LEAs to provide PEIMS data to TEA and the available data is not shared back with LEAs in a timely or useful format. To address these issues, the Texas Student Data System was created with the following goals:

  • Collect data at a granular, disaggregated level
  • Provide business intelligence and reporting tools for collected data
  • Implement a unique statewide identifier for students and staff
  • Provide an enhanced student information system using economies of scale to bring down the price
  • Assemble an enterprise data governance board
  • Create statewide enterprise data standards

TSDS partnered with eScholar to help build the Education Data Warehouse (EDW) used by TSDS. TSDS is therefore closely aligned with CEDS and Ed-Fi. TSDS defines additional data schemas to extend CEDS to support Texas-specific requirements including the data records required for PEIMS submission. The two sets of schemas are collectively known as Texas Education Data Standards (TEDS). TSDS also licenses Ed-Fi technology for building the student GPS dashboards.

TSDS is still in the process of being implemented. By school year 2016/2017 it is expected that all LEAs will use TSDS. There are two implementation options available to LEAs. The first is to use TSDS only for the submission of PEIMS data, which is an eventual requirement for all LEAs and will replace the EDIT+ PEIMS data format used today (see comparison). The second is to provide more granular data to TSDS for complete population of the data warehouse. A benefit of the second approach is the availability of the student GPS dashboards, which are provided as part of TSDS.

TSDS Implementation Timeline

Visual representation of TSDS timeline

Glossary of Key Terms

CEDS
Common Education Data Standards
Ed-Fi
Foundation for enabling interoperability among education data systems
EDIT+
An interface for LEAs to transfer PEIMS data to TEA
EDW
Enterprise Data Warehouse, a component of TSDS
ESC
Education Service Center [Texas]
LEA
Local Education Agency (school district or charter schools)
NCES
National Center for Education Statistics
PEIMS
Public Education Information Management System
P-20W
Preschool, Grade 20 or higher education, Workforce
PK-12
Pre-K to 12th-grade education
TEA
Texas Education Agency
TEDS
Texas Education Data Standards
TSDS
Texas Student Data System
TAPR
Texas Academic Performance Reports

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