The Ed-Fi Alliance blog includes contributions from experts in the field and individuals affected by our work. These individuals share our vision of improving student achievement by fostering responsible and effective use of data. Ray Ackerlund is the Vice President of Marketing & Product Management for Skyward Inc. and guides the strategic execution for Skyward’s administrative software exclusively designed for K-12 school districts.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re concerned about one of the major challenges today’s school districts face: the ability to gain insights from raw education data that are stored in various systems so that administrators and teachers can make more informed decisions that benefit students, educators and the community. As if that weren’t enough of a challenge, districts also need to share much of that data with state agencies. Creating established, secure interchanges that make these data mutually usable causes enormous budgetary and administrative strain, threatening to derail the data-driven culture intrinsically tied to the success of many districts.

A Broad-Scope Solution

As an administrative software company serving the education sector, Skyward recognizes the need for broad-scope frameworks to standardize the collection, transmission and use of a mountain of data. The Ed-Fi Alliance provides a solution to that problem in the form of its Ed-Fi Data Standard, which includes consistent data elements across states. The Standard serves as the foundation for education technology that apply to the diverse data integration needs of the education sector.

However, years of implementation and experimentation have allowed Ed-Fi technology to evolve into far more than a data standard. The Ed-Fi Implementation Suite’s advanced real-time Operational Data Store and Application Programming Interface enable fluid interfaces between different data systems. Dashboards displaying real-time data analytics at all levels make it much easier for teachers, administrators, districts and state agencies to view and interpret critical information in a timely manner. And this is key – as school districts devote more resources to their technical infrastructure, the Ed-Fi Alliance will keep working to simplify and integrate that structure.

After working with the Tennessee Department of Education and other Ed-Fi Powered agencies, Skyward has witnessed the powerful benefits of Ed-Fi technology for both districts and states. The districts using our software have seen improved data accuracy and on-time submissions, reduced maintenance costs, new analysis capabilities, enhanced interoperability and, more local control. These advantages directly impact the success of students, teachers and their classrooms.

Benefits for Vendors

The benefits of the Ed-Fi Data Standard and Ed-Fi Implementation Suite extend to education technology vendors — particularly those involved in data management. Since we share the Ed-Fi Alliance’s dedication to educational data security/utility, lower overhead costs for school districts, and greater long-term stability in a rapidly changing landscape, adapting our technology to the Ed-Fi Data Standard was an obvious step. The ultimate beneficiaries are our school district partners who gain the ability to meet emerging trends and state mandates.

In Skyward’s case, we found that 80% of the development work done in states using the Ed-Fi ODS and API can be directly applied to any other state that licenses the technology. This dramatically reduces the one-off development typically required to enter a new market and because of that, we’ve been able to save hundreds of thousands of dollars and focus on product innovation. In cooperation with the Ed-Fi Alliance, we’ve developed a new implementation brief that further outlines the significant advantages of standardizing our product on technology from the Ed-Fi Alliance.

For educational technology vendors, now is the time to get involved with the Ed-Fi Community. Join the growing 24 states and over 10,000 school districts that help states and districts alike access the full benefits of the Ed-Fi Implementation Suite of technology built from the Ed-Fi Data Standard. Become part of the movement to empower educators to enrich the learning process for all students.

Ray Ackerlund (@RayAckerlund) is the Vice President of Marketing & Product Management for Skyward Inc. With the company for more than 20 years, Ray guides the strategic execution of marketing and product vision for Skyward’s administrative software exclusively designed for K-12 school districts. Skyward serves more than 5 million students and 1,800 school districts worldwide.