In the world of US public education, 2014 was marked by miscellaneous controversies, flame-outs, and debates. The year kicked off with the demise of inBloom, sustained an ongoing conversation about student data privacy and standardized testing, and culminated in a lather of concern about Common Core State Standards.

But out of the limelight, there was plenty of progress. It happened in classrooms and schools across the country, where educators sought to do whatever it takes to help every student learn, grow, and achieve every day.

Those of us at the Ed-Fi Alliance have a very particular lens on education. We believe that the right data tools – and the right data infrastructure – can help to empower teachers to do their best work with kids, and can help kids to excel. From our perch, 2014 represented a tipping point in the appetite for well-designed education data tools and technologies to deliver better insights and information to educators, families and students. What’s our evidence for this belief? Across the country, organizations representing more than 50 percent of US students, districts and teachers are leveraging various technologies enabled by the widely-adopted, CEDS-aligned Ed-Fi Data Standard.

Let me be clear: what’s exciting about this isn’t that the adoption of Ed-Fi technology reached some notable figure. What’s exciting is the community that’s emerged, the collaboration it’s engendered, and the real world benefits that has for teachers and students.

More often than not, the IT experts working with Ed-Fi Powered solutions feed their insights back to their peers via the technical community.  This collaboration – centered on faithful use of the Ed-Fi Data Standard – means that technology components and enhancements can be shared. This creates a domino effect in which 1) time, resources, and money are saved; 2) teachers get accelerated access to tools that deliver critical insights and information about their students; 3) kids get the help they need, sooner.

As facilitators of agency efforts, those of us working at the Ed-Fi Alliance are inspired by the progress made in places like Arkansas, Delaware, and Tennessee which have been nationally recognized for their efforts to improve student achievement by using student data effectively and responsibly. We’re equally inspired by those less-visible efforts, in places where agency officials at all levels are making rapid progress in their own state and district projects while contributing back 200+ enhancements to benefit the broader Ed-FI Community.

What does 2015 hold for the ed sector? At the broadest level, I don’t pretend to know.

What I do know is that the Ed-Fi Community and all its participants will continue to work hard on behalf of educators, students and their families. We’ll see this work come to fruition in exciting new, field-tested technologies and increasing numbers of community-contributed enhancements that improve Ed-Fi technical components and make them more usable for all. We’ll see exciting new use cases develop. Most importantly, we’ll see many small victories happening in classrooms, schools, districts and other agencies across the country. Make no mistake, these victories add up – putting the broader goals of the ed sector within reach.

I also know that 2015 holds plenty of new adventures for myself and the Ed-Fi Alliance team. I have had the enormous and rewarding privilege of leading the Ed-Fi Alliance since its inception in 2011 and on February 1st, I’m handing leadership over to Troy Wheeler. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Troy, who has broad technology experience in public education and large scale systems, since he joined the Ed-Fi Alliance team in 2012 as Vice President-Strategic Market Development. With Troy at the helm of the Alliance going forward, I predict great things: increased collaboration, increased growth in the usage of Ed-Fi technology, and expanded market-based products and services to support further personalizing learning – all of it for the benefit of educators and students nationwide.

A very heartfelt thank you to everyone who is focused, head down, and working hard to support teachers and students.  Because of you, this year holds great promise and the Ed-Fi Alliance is proud to be your partner on this journey.