FAQs

General

Who created and owns Ed-Fi technology?

Ed-Fi technology was developed by the Ed-Fi Alliance with funding from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Today, the Ed-Fi Alliance owns and issues licenses for Ed-Fi technology.

How was Ed-Fi technology developed?

Ed-Fi technology used as its starting point the U.S. Department of Education’s Common Education Data Standards (CEDS.) Input from state education agencies, local education agencies, vendors and teachers guided the development of Ed-Fi technology features. The Ed-Fi Alliance Advisory Council―composed of education agency representatives from states and school districts that are implementing Ed-Fi technology―and the Alliance team guide future technical developments.

Does Ed-Fi technology incorporate REST API specifications?

In November 2013, the Ed-Fi Alliance published REST (Representational State Transfer) application programming interfaces (API) guidelines for licensees seeking to incorporate a RESTful API into their implementation of Ed-Fi technology.The Ed-Fi Alliance will review and incorporate the best practices from field implementations into later releases of Ed-Fi technology, and share them with all licensees. The REST architectural style is a convention-based approach to define APIs. The published guidelines outline conventions and design patterns to guide an Ed-Fi REST API specification, along with rationale for the guidelines.

Why do you refer to Ed-Fi technology as a “standard” and “development tools”?

Ed-Fi technology is a data standard combined with free development tools. The data standard includes a unifying data model (UDM) and a data exchange framework, which enable education agencies to integrate information from a broad range of existing sources. The development tools include an application framework, and dashboard source code and templates, enabling states and districts to develop rich dashboard systems that provide permission-based insights into detailed student level data.

Does Ed-Fi technology include dashboards?

Ed-Fi technology includes a dashboard starter kit. The kit provides sample dashboard elements, such as source code and educational metrics that elementary and secondary teachers have identified as critical to understanding students’ strengths and areas for improvement. Together, these components are the building blocks for creating functional, secure dashboards.

How much does it cost to license, implement and use the Ed-Fi technology?

States, districts, schools, vendors or service providers can obtain a completely free, non-transferable license to use Ed-Fi technology, which provides perpetual, unrestricted access and usage rights to its components. For information about licensing, please contact us.

The cost of implementing the Ed-Fi technology depends on complexity of the implementation and several other factors. These factors include (but are not limited to) choice of application vendor and implementation plan variables such as whether internal staff or external vendors (e.g., system integrators) will be used. Any and all fees will be charged by third party vendors. The Ed-Fi Alliance and the Ed-Fi Alliance Advisory Council will not charge for licensing, usage, or later versions of or modifications to Ed-Fi technology.

Why XML?

Ed-Fi technology is built on XML standards for ease of implementation. XML is a widely adopted, vendor-independent technology designed to communicate both the structure and contents of documents, and to provide methods of automatically validating, querying and transforming XML files (e.g., XSD, XPath and XSLT). Moreover, XML is itself a technology standard that is in widespread use, so software and technology vendors and internal IT staff can employ existing tools and knowledge to implement Ed-Fi technology, which reduces both risk and total cost of implementation.

What use-cases can Ed-Fi technology support?

Ed-Fi technology exends existing data systems’ capabilities by facilitating many scenarios including but not limited to:

  • Moving data between systems within a local education agency (LEA)—for instance, between a grade book application and the student information system
  • Moving data between LEA and state education agency (SEA) systems to provide data to a statewide longitudinal data warehouse
  • Accepting data from external sources, such as testing services
  • Enabling aggregation of data from different sources into an operational data store or data warehouse
  • Transferring student transcript records and other data among local education agencies when students move from one school to another
  • Providing data to state education agencies or to federal agencies to meet accountability or other requirements
  • Developing dashboards or reporting tools that enable educators to easily monitor student progress in real-time so they can quickly identify early indicators of success or failure, and intervene with relevant, timely measures

What kinds of systems and data can be made interoperable using Ed-Fi technology?

Ed-Fi technology is the foundation for education data systems that ensure secure exchange and appropriate use of student information. It gives states and districts the power to securely connect or create information systems that collect, manage, or provide analysis for student data. For example: student information systems (SIS), grade book applications, curriculum and lesson planning systems, and benchmark testing and reporting systems can all be integrated. The kinds of data exchanged between these systems might include records on students’ grades, absence rates, standardized test scores, transcripts and more.

What is an Ed-Fi-powered dashboard?

Educational dashboards are secure, browser-based collections of interactive charts, gauges, reports and other visual indicators that give educators and parents on-demand access to timely, relevant and actionable information about student performance.

Ed-Fi technology includes a dashboard starter kit which enables a school district or state to quickly implement and customize dashboards in their existing technology environment without starting from scratch.  Ownership and management of data remains with the district or state agency.

Ed-Fi-powered dashboards enable educators and parents to easily monitor critical performance indicators from a variety of sources in a secure, single location, enhancing their ability to identify early warning signs and hidden growth opportunities, and to intervene to ensure that all students avoid failure and reach their full potential. Views can easily be tailored as needed for a variety of roles including teacher, parent, principal, campus leader, district leader or others.

 

From a technical perspective, what is Ed-Fi technology, and what does it include?

Ed-Fi technology consists of a data standard combined with free development tools designed to help accelerate the development of implementations that utilize the data standard.

The Ed-Fi data standard consists of the Ed-Fi Unifying Data Model and a data exchange framework:

  • Ed-Fi Unifying Data Model – The Ed-Fi Unifying Data Model (UDM) is an enterprise data model of K–12 education data. It is designed to capture the meaning and inherent structure in the most important information in the K–12 education enterprise, in order to facilitate information sharing of education data. The UDM is expressed using Unified Modeling Language (UML) class diagrams and is independent of any interchange mechanism, database storage structure or application interface. The UDM is aligned to the Common Education Data Standards.
  • Data exchange framework – The data exchange framework defines mechanisms for securely exchanging and storing data contained in the UDM, based on industry standard and vendor neutral approaches. The data exchange framework includes:

The data exchange framework also includes the Ed-Fi Extensions Framework which describes methods by which licensees can customize and extend the XML core schema, develop additional interchange schemas and extend the logical database model – all to accommodate implementation-specific requirements and new scenarios, while remaining compatible with the Ed-Fi data standard.

Ed-Fi development tools provide source code and implementation guides designed to help accelerate the development of implementations that utilize the data standard.  Specifically, the tools include:

  • Application framework The application framework includes source code for an example implementation of an Operational Data Store (ODS) based on the Ed-Fi Logical Database Model and Extract/Transform/Load (ETL) packages for loading the ODS using Ed-Fi Standard Interchange Schemas, as well as technical implementation guides to help accelerate application development.
  • Dashboard starter kit – The dashboard starter kit provides a sample dashboard user interface with educational metrics that elementary and secondary teachers have identified as critical to understanding students’ strengths and areas for improvement. The kit includes full source code for an initial implementation of secure dashboards and technical implementation guides that provide prescriptive guidance and general concepts essential to creating functional dashboards.

Access to the development tools is available via the Ed-Fi GitHub repository which is available to licensed Ed-Fi users.

What is Ed-Fi technology?

Ed-Fi technology serves as the foundation for enabling interoperability among secure education data systems designed to improve student achievement and teacher satisfaction.

The Ed-Fi data standard is the cost-effective, easy-to-use, education data standard that enables interoperability among state or district-built data and IT systems making student data accessible and usable by educators.  It is the most widely adopted, free, open data standard available and the only data standard developed and continually refined by the educational community for the betterment of the community.

Ed-Fi development tools are designed to facilitate the integration and organization of raw education data and information from a broad range of existing disparate data sources so it can be put to use every day. They allow districts and states to unlock existing data that is in legacy source systems, then unify and standardize that data for classroom educators and decision makers.

The Ed-Fi technology also includes a dashboard starter kit that enables rapid implementation of high quality educator-facing tools.

Ed-Fi technology equips educators and parents with actionable insights, so they can then make informed decisions on steps to improve the academic outcomes of students. School and district administrators, state, and federal agencies can also use the technology to streamline data collection and reduce collection burdens associated with state accountability reporting.  Ed-Fi technology was developed with support from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and is available for use via a free license from the Ed-Fi Alliance.

Comparable Standards and Initiatives

Does Ed-Fi technology compete with CEDS?

No. From the beginning Ed-Fi technology was based on CEDS. It continues to take CEDS as the primary source for definitions of common elements, and the Ed-Fi Alliance team actively participates in CEDS stakeholder and technical working groups. The Ed-Fi Alliance team recently began detailed analysis of CEDS 4.0 to determine the alignment approach to be used in the next Ed-Fi version. The team remains committed to ensuring that CEDS can be implemented in states and districts.

How does the Common Education Data Standard's (CEDS) initiative affect Ed-Fi technology?

The National Center for Education Statistics’ CEDS initiative is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies, State Education Agencies (SEAs), Local Education Agencies (LEAs), private foundations and vendors to create a common vocabulary for education data, thereby streamlining data exchange and facilitating comparison across institutions and sectors. The Ed-Fi Alliance has participated in CEDS from the beginning and actively supports improvements to each CEDS release. The Ed-Fi data standard uses CEDS as a reference model and aligns to it wherever possible. Specifically, Ed-Fi version 1.2 is aligned to CEDS 3.0. In addition, Ed-Fi Alliance representatives participate in CEDS stakeholder and technical working groups to ensure that needs identified by the field and real-world implementations are incorporated into future versions of CEDS.

Why develop another standard from scratch?

Other educational data standards do not link the information chain at the right level of detail, coverage and completeness to address problems that affect K-12 students and teachers, while also fulfilling accountability and other vertical reporting needs. For instance, no existing standard was specifically designed so that:

  • Educators and parents can quickly and easily access comprehensive and timely student records on demand in a secure environment
  • State leaders can systematically and reliably compare program performance across different schools and districts
  • State and local agencies can identify problematic trends and issues early, before they affect funding or accountability decisions

Ed-Fi technology addresses all those needs and more.

 

Doesn’t something like Ed-Fi technology already exist?

Ed-Fi technology aligns with the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) and shares some characteristics with other established and emerging educational standards. Specifically, Ed-Fi technology enables states to implement CEDS in a practical, sustainable manner that supports teacher- and student-centric education.

Rather than replacing other established and emerging educational standards, Ed-Fi technology complements and enhances them, first, by enabling the sharing of disparate data and translating it into element-level detail, and second, by offering broad coverage at the school, district or state level. This functionality enables Ed-Fi technology to coexist among systems that states or districts have already implemented, and enables those organizations to build on prior investments in existing IT systems and processes. Ed-Fi technology fills the persistent need in the education sector to harness the power of data already collected in school districts and states to benefit teachers, parents and students.

Governance, Versioning, Releases, and Roadmap

How can Ed-Fi technology’s functionality be modified?

Ed-Fi technology functionality can be easily extended by implementers to suit the specific needs of a state or district. The Ed-Fi Alliance transparently manages enhancements and changes to the technology and provides a variety of ways for interested parties to participate including a website feedback form, and a Request for Comment period preceding each new version release.

How can I comment on the Ed-Fi technology?

The Ed-Fi Alliance transparently manages enhancements and changes to the technology, and provides a variety of ways for interested parties to participate, including a website feedback form and a Request for Comment period preceding each new version release.

Recommended changes and issues are captured, tracked and made visible in a GitHub repository. The repository is available to Ed-Fi technology licensees and exists in order to foster transparent dialogue about improvements generated during field implementations. In coordination with the Ed-Fi Alliance Advisory Council, the Ed-Fi Alliance reviews and prioritizes relevant suggestions and submissions, for incorporation into future releases.

To view, respond to and participate in ongoing Ed-Fi improvement discussions, please visit the Ed-Fi discussion portal.

Will Ed-Fi technology continue to be versioned?

Yes. Ed-Fi technology evolves over time, as new elements are added to the data model in response to field-identified needs. These changes will be versioned to ensure that any entity which implements Ed-Fi technology can verify which version is in use. Timing of release cycles and the version conventions for future releases are determined by the Ed-Fi Alliance.

Is Ed-Fi technology open source?

Ed-Fi technology is an open specification. We employ a GitHub repository to provide access to the source code for the Ed-Fi dashboards and other technical materials to organizations who execute the free Ed-Fi license.

Who governs Ed-Fi technology?

The Ed-Fi Alliance governs Ed-Fi technology with direction from the Ed-Fi Alliance Advisory Council, which is composed of representatives from state and local education agencies that are implementing Ed-Fi technology. Ed-Fi Alliance Advisory Council representatives are primarily technology-focused professionals, many of whom are responsible for large-scale educational data systems being implemented with Race to the Top and State Longitudinal Data Systems grant funds.

Implementation

Has Ed-Fi technology been implemented nation-wide?

Since launching in July 2011, Ed-Fi technology has gained significant momentum in K-12 education among state education agencies, school districts and vendors. As of February 2014, 19 states have licensed or are in discussions to license Ed-Fi technology. Collectively, these 19 states represent 40% of K-12 students and teachers across the United States, all poised to benefit from Ed-Fi technology.

How does a student information system (SIS) map to the Ed-Fi data standard?

The Ed-Fi data standard specifies an XML file format (an XSD file) for several common data interchange scenarios. To map to an SIS (which typically contains data such as student contact information, grades, attendance and class schedules), the Ed-Fi data standard represents the information in the SIS as a data interchange.

An SIS system that “adopted” the Ed-Fi standard would provide a feature to import and/or export one or more of the data interchanges. For instance, an Ed-Fi standard-compliant SIS system would enable simple, interface-based commands such as “export to Ed-Fi Standard Interchange Schema format,” as opposed to what is commonly done today, which is to create a custom extraction for every particular exchange.

 

How will the Ed-Fi Alliance support systems integrators?

One of the Alliance's goals in developing Ed-Fi technology was to address integrators’ needs. We have worked to do that by building Ed-Fi technology on proven, familiar tools such as XML, and by providing robust online documentation. Beyond that, it is the Alliance's intention to establish and nurture a vendor community with systems integrators as a key faction. Vendors can participate in ongoing Ed-Fi technology improvement discussions by visiting the Ed-Fi discussion portal.

How can a vendor contribute to Ed-Fi technology?

We anticipate there will be two general types of contributions:

  • Recommendations to change the core schema. These changes require control and approval processes, as changing the core schema could break others’ implementations.
  • Recommendations to add to the core schema. These changes would need to reviewed for applicability to other users (i.e., they are not one-offs), but additions will not break the core schema.

Ed-Fi technology licensees recommend changes and view tracked issues in the GitHub repository. In addition, all interested parties are welcome to make recommendations or contributions to the technology via the website feedback form and may view, respond to and participate in ongoing Ed-Fi technology improvement discussions in the Ed-Fi discussion portal.

How much does it cost to implement Ed-Fi technology?

The cost of implementing Ed-Fi technology depends on complexity of the implementation and several other factors. These factors include (but are not limited to) choice of application vendor and implementation plan variables such as whether internal staff or external vendors (e.g., system integrators) will be used. Any and all fees will be charged by third party vendors. The Ed-Fi Alliance and its Advisory Council will not charge for licensing, usage, or later versions of or modifications to Ed-Fi technology.

Can a vendor charge for work they perform or for new things they create using Ed-Fi technology?

Yes. As a matter of licensing policy, the Ed-Fi Alliance does not allow a vendor to charge for work the Alliance has already performed. Vendors may, however, charge for any value-added work beyond that.

Any and all fees related to Ed-Fi technology will be charged by third party vendors. The Ed-Fi Alliance and the Ed-Fi Alliance Advisory Council will not charge for licensing, usage, or later versions of or modifications to Ed-Fi technology.

Will implementation work performed by vendors be sharable with others?

Yes, if the vendor wishes. The Ed-Fi Alliance will facilitate the sharing of work as long as it meets the goals of the Ed-Fi Alliance Advisory Council and has applicability to a wide range of needs.

Permission from the vendor will always be obtained prior to any sharing.

What is involved in building Ed-Fi-powered dashboards?

Implementation of dashboards based on the Ed-Fi starter kit and source code is similar to other software development projects, with a cycle of requirement definition, analysis, development, testing and refinement. The sample dashboards provided as part of the Ed-Fi technology can be used throughout the development cycle to elicit requirements. The sample metrics can save time during the analysis phase, while Ed-Fi data exchange standards can minimize effort during the development phase.

Does implementing Ed-Fi-powered dashboards require that existing systems be replaced?

No. Dashboards using Ed-Fi source code or samples leverage data from existing campus, district, regional or state data systems while remaining entirely within the secure district or state environment. By facilitating interoperability between the dashboards and existing systems, Ed-Fi technology augments the value of those existing systems.

Can the Ed-Fi powered dashboards be rolled-out in phases?

Yes. In most large-scale implementations, phased rollouts make sense. For example, a statewide implementation will typically begin in a small number of pilot districts before being rolled out statewide.

Are the Ed-Fi data exchanges difficult to implement?

No. Ed-Fi technology is built on widely-adopted XML standards to facilitate data exchanges so vendors and in-house IT staff can implement it with little risk and a low total cost of implementation. To further simplify implementation, Ed-Fi technology components avoid complex jargon and codes and use plain-English names and definitions that make sense in the education space.

Must I use particular vendors’ offerings to implement Ed-Fi technology?

No. Ed-Fi technology is vendor-neutral. Organizations that implement Ed-Fi technology do not need to use any particular vendor’s software, hardware, operating system, development tools or implementation services.

What is involved in implementing the Ed-Fi data standard for a custom data integration project?

For custom data projects (e.g., most data warehouse and data integration projects), implementation would involve using the Ed-Fi data exchange framework for data transfers between systems. Ed-Fi technology defines several XML-based standard data transfer schema (e.g., student attendance, student enrollment, assessment results, etc.) and also provides an extension framework for customizing the existing schema to meet specific needs.

What is involved in a product vendor implementation of the Ed-Fi data standard?

For a vendor with an existing product, a data standard implementation may be as simple as exporting data to one or more of the Ed-Fi data interchange schema. For example, in order to feed data to a centralized data system a student information system (SIS) a vendor might output data using an Ed-Fi format, such as the Ed-Fi student enrollment, student attendance and student grade data interchanges.

Standards Compliance

Why is it important to maintain compliance with the Ed-Fi data standard?

Ed-Fi technology is intended to be implemented by U.S states and districts. Adopting the standard and maintaining compliance is critical, first because it will ensure reporting continuity, data integrity and compliance with requirements across district, state and federal levels. Second, compliance allows states or districts to facilitate the appropriate transfer of student information as they transition from Pre-K to K12 and from K12 to post-secondary systems and into the workforce. Adoption and maintenance of the standard also facilitates the transfer of authorized transcript information across state lines when students move so that teachers have the information they need to address new student needs from day one in a new class or school.

What is the minimum level of effort required to maintain compliance with the Ed-Fi data standard?

The criteria for compliance are evolving. Currently, you are compliant if you create XML data exchanges that reference and validate against one or more of the Ed-Fi Standard Interchange Schemas. To facilitate testing, the Ed-Fi Alliance provides a free validation tool.