Since so many members of the Ed-Fi Community are building solutions based on Microsoft technology, I decided to attend Microsoft’s Public Sector Industry Solution University (ISU) event at the beginning of August. This was our first time to attend, so I was excited to see (and relay) some of the breadth of services and accomplishments on display throughout the Microsoft partner network. But imagine my surprise when the Ed-Fi Alliance was named as one of the top partners for 2015 – and as recipient of the Microsoft US Education, Rising Star Partner of the Year Award!

The Partner of the Year Awards recognize excellence and achievement among Microsoft partners who are transforming organizations via the cloud and producing exceptional results in the government, healthcare and education sectors.

I was honored by the words of Vince Menzione, General Manager of Microsoft’s U.S. Public Sector Partner business: “Our award winners showcase the best work taking place to bring about transformation and nowhere is this change needed more than education. We’d like to congratulate the Ed-Fi Alliance and their community of education leaders for their commitment to improving student achievement through innovation.”

Of course it wasn’t feasible to get all of the 200-plus involved in the Ed-Fi Community up there on the stage, as richly as they deserve the applause. So I accepted the award on behalf of all the agencies and ed-tech vendors nationwide that are innovating in the area of data use for the purpose of improving K-12 education. Tennessee was even featured during the K-12 keynote as a role model for how all this innovation is enabling real educator empowerment by providing intervention and personalized lesson planning.

Earlier this year, the Tennessee Department of Education released educator dashboards to 30 pilot districts across the state powered by Microsoft Azure and Ed-Fi technology. This was a complex undertaking because the dashboards integrate with five different student information system vendors. And they’re not resting on their laurels, either. Tennessee continues to push the envelope for the future of Ed-Fi and Microsoft technology while giving generously back to the community.

Other agencies involved in the Ed-Fi Alliance can benefit directly from work like this. For instance, as a new member of the Ed-Fi Community, Illinois is now investigating the use of Microsoft cloud services for bringing enterprise system data together with Ed-Fi ODS and Ed-Fi Dashboards. Where better to turn but to their newly-formed network of peers for real-world advice, insights and knowledge?

Examples like these underline the value of developing innovative solutions via an open, community-based approach among industry peers. While cloud-based technology certainly provides many benefits and conveniences, accelerating the velocity of data to help improve teaching and learning, Ed-Fi technology has always been designed to give agencies the flexibility to choose the best environment for their own systems – locally or otherwise.

So we’d just like to say congratulations to the entire Ed-Fi Community for the achievements that have led, not just to awards like this one, but to what those awards represent in terms of quality, innovation and dedication. We are excited about what the future holds for new and existing members of the community as they continue to break new ground for improving instruction and learning for teachers and students. Give yourselves a well-deserved pat on the back – and keep up the great work!