Countdown: 243 days down, 122 left to go.
Every day South Carolina gets closer to rolling out the comprehensive system that we have been promising to our educators for years: the one that ties all of our state’s PK-20W data together in one place and presents it in dashboards that people can use to make better-informed education decisions in our state. In fairly short order we have gathered and documented our requirements, identified the required data elements and loaded them into the data warehouse. We still have a fair bit to do, but we have four months to do it, and our team’s engine is firing on all cylinders.
The end is in sight. We chose to use the Ed-Fi solution as the basis for our SLDS, one of the best decisions that the team made in designing this project. Using the Ed-Fi solution has allowed us to get up and running quickly: only 90 days passed between the time that we downloaded the software and the time that the Ed-Fi tool suite was up and running. More importantly, we had something useful to use, right away.
Our previous attempts at creating a statewide longitudinal database schema had languished; stuck between wanting everything, and gathering nothing. Not so with the Ed-Fi standard, built to support the State Core model. It supported 90% of what we needed, right out of the box. Our developers love that ease of installation. They haven’t needed to learn any new, or boutique skills. Microsoft SQL Server? Check. SQL Server reporting services? Check. This immediate level of comfort with the Ed-Fi system and level of support helped us to get buy-in from our developers right out of the gate. Very helpful.
What will happen next?
Well, no one knows for certain. I am sure that some new challenge will arise tomorrow. For now, though, I feel confident in our path to deployment. The part that we had struggled with the most, and for such a long period of time, is behind us. We now have the basis of a longitudinal data warehouse system up and running. Data are loaded. User roles and permissions are defined. The Ed-Fi data framework and easy-to-customize user interface — the keystone piece for our users — is in beta testing and getting solid reviews.
A Social, Practical Network for DOEs
Eight months ago things looked very different indeed. I never would have thought, then, that we would be so close, now. Fortunately, we didn’t have to build it all from scratch. We were able to stand on the shoulders of the giants who came, and built, before us. Being part of a social network/community like the Ed-Fi Alliance gives me confidence we can also incorporate continuous improvement over time. I’m excited, too, to share our customizations of the dashboards with others — paying it forward? Check . Gee, I wonder what effective strategies my Ed-Fi peers have to offer to help us tackle our sustainability challenges — peer-to-peer best practices? Check and double check!
I have been waiting for this day to come.
Paul Butler-Nalin is Director, Office of Data Management & Research, for the South Carolina Department of Education.