Talk about student data is everywhere these days – how it’s used, its value, and how it’s secured. At the Ed-Fi Alliance, we advocate for the benefits of responsible data use. We know it can give educators a holistic view of each student, and of his or her abilities in the classroom.
As a professional, I believe in this vision. That’s why I moved, along with my family, from Idaho to Texas last year. But that move, and the impact it’s had, has made me believe in that vision on a whole other level: As a dad.
When we first got to Austin, we had a lot to think about –questions like where will we live? Will we make new friends? Can we find a good school for our kids?
One question we didn’t think of was whether our children’s new school would know enough about their education needs and history. Unfortunately, the answer was no.
As rising 7th and 8th graders, my son and daughter both had amassed a trove of valuable information that could have followed them from school to school – test scores, academic placement records, and special education data. But the data stayed put in Idaho.
Why did that matter so much?
First, because my children have specific education needs. My son Koby and my daughter McKenna both qualify for a 504 Plan – which offers special accommodations in a few areas. When we transferred, the new school had no way to access the records they needed to verify my kids’ status. No files followed them to their new school; no test scores were transferred. We had one hard copy of what we thought we needed and that was it.
Once we started enrolling our kids, we realized that despite our best efforts, our new school needed more information than we had. My wife spent hours digging through old files and calling our prior district to get the information sent and copies made. For families moving, this is a gap that could have been filled by systems leveraging the Ed-Fi technology.
Second, because education curricula differs state to state. Our new school didn’t have detailed academic data on my son – just a record indicating that he’d successfully completed pre-algebra in 7th grade. As a result, he was placed in an extremely advanced math class. It wasn’t until six weeks into the school year that we – and his teachers – noticed he was really struggling. A phone call to his previous teacher uncovered the fact that the 7th grade curriculum taught in Idaho is vastly different than the one taught in Texas. My son had missed vital building blocks. Because no data followed my son, he was left feeling like he was failing amidst the already difficult situation of adapting to new peers and trying to make new friends.
Why tell these stories? Because, in my dual role as a parent and professional, what I see missing from the education data conversation is real-life examples that show how important data can be for our kids’ success. Student information holds true power, and while nothing can replace classroom interaction, student data supplements it.
I also share my family’s story because of how common it is. While my family’s move was cross-country, our experience is relatable to many families who move within a state’s borders. How many? States report mobility numbers near 35% – meaning every school year, over a third of all families experience similar challenges moving from place to place.
The last year has made me appreciate my job at the Ed-Fi Alliance on a whole new level. Ed-Fi technology is designed to harness the power of that data already collected in school districts and states to benefit teachers, parents and students. There are 21 states that have adopted Ed-Fi technology. That’s about 40% of the K-12 sector across the U.S. For the thousands of families moving from district to district within those states, the transfer of education data and records can provide a real positive impact. And who is most affected? Students like mine, and maybe yours, too.
Troy Wheeler is the VP of Strategic Market Development for the Ed-Fi Alliance and joined the team in 2012. Troy guides product strategy and leads customer outreach to states and districts as well as the vendor community for adoption of the Ed-Fi standard. Troy’s aim is to ensure that Ed-Fi technology continues to meet the real world problems of integrating and using data effectively to improve student outcomes.