Written by Itzel Torres

We all agree that the ability to exchange and use relevant information can empower educators to improve student outcomes. It’s why we’re all in this amazing community, working to put the right information in educators’ hands at the right time.

The Ed-Fi Dashboards were originally designed to demonstrate what meaningful data can do in the classroom. Fast forward a few years, and we’ve learned a lot. There are more advanced and convenient ways to manipulate and visualize information, including leveraging the tool we use more than any other—our smartphones. So now, we’re reaching further and pushing the limits of how the education sector defines a “data visualization.”

Our recently launched Reporting and Visualizations workgroup is exploring new technology opportunities and assessing what a free Ed-Fi visualization toolset should look like. One of its members, President & CEO of ESP Solutions Group Glynn Ligon, views this workgroup as mission-critical. Having worked as a teacher, a district evaluator, an assessment director, and a CIO, Glynn knows it’s the reporting and visualization of data that will ultimately make interoperability catch on and spread across our school systems.

“What could be more vital than the reporting and visualization of our data? Collecting, analyzing, and storing are professionally challenging and fulfilling for information technology experts. However, use of the data for improving instruction and increasing learning, our ultimate goal, happens only when the data escape their stores and make a scene.


Many educators get excited about Ed-Fi because they see dashboards and envision the promise of visualizations informing countless use cases. This is what our workgroup is uncovering: how to present the right data, at the right time, in the right way, to the right people, for the right outcomes.”

-Gynn Ligon,
President & CEO, ESP Solutions Group

So far, our Reporting & Visualizations workgroup has:

  • Released a survey that we’d love for you to complete here to answer the question, what is the biggest pain point regarding the visualization of student insights?
  • Captured and ranked an initial set of use cases submitted by members of the group that we will work through and use to develop a minimum viable visualization.
  • Defined the criteria for a reporting & visualization tool that benefits and stays true to the mission of the Ed-Fi Community.

Our workgroup is proposing that the new Ed-Fi reporting & visualization tool should:

Be easy, meaning it should:

  • Require minimum technical/development skills to install and customize (e.g. JavaScript, HTML)
  • Provide a programmatic method to develop content (e.g. API, scripting languages)
  • Include a GUI-based method to develop content (e.g. browser or desktop application based)

Be extensible, meaning it should:

  • Allow users to define additional visualization types as modules with resource re-use where applicable
  • Integrate with existing technology stacks and be flexible and durable enough to grow with the organization

Be collaborative, meaning it should:

  • Allow organizations to easily share, compare, and distribute content without distributing the underlying data

Be free, meaning it should:

  • Use open source resources
  • Allow or be a source for OTS tools (e.g. PowerBI, Tableau)

Note: “Free” in this context comes from Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation, referring to software that provides end users with the freedom to modify the source/software to meet the needs of the user. By this definition, paid software like MS PowerBI can be considered “free” if it provides a way for end users to modify functionality to suit their needs.

Be scalable, meaning it should:

  • Be able to provide access to content to as many or as few users as desired without requiring massive computing infrastructure to support it
  • Perform well enough with minimal hardware to keep cost/overhead sustainable
  • Be highly secure
  • Implement role-based permissions for content access
  • Implement row-based security for data access

Be cost-effective, meaning it should:

  • Have no licensing fees
  • Require reduced maintenance
  • Break reliance on third-party integrators/services

The Ed-Fi Community has grown and learned a lot over the years, so it’s tremendously exciting to see community members applying lessons learned to carve a path for the future of data insights in the classroom.

We would love to hear which use cases you consider the most impactful for our group to review. Please let us know—complete our brief survey.

Now Recruiting Subgroup Members! 

We’re now seeking new workgroup members with specific areas of interest and expertise:

User Requirements/Experience

These group members will be tasked with capturing the needs of all stakeholders—including educators—by conducting interviews to help guide the technical group work.

Technical Review 

These group members will be tasked with evaluating and testing multiple visualization and architecture options to meet the desired criteria for the Ed-Fi visualization toolset. Once the architecture and toolset are identified, this group will be tasked with delivering an MVP using the Student Discipline selected use case.

Ed-Fi Dashboards Evaluation

This group will be tasked with evaluating current Ed-Fi Dashboards against our guiding principles to inform an Ed-Fi reporting core offering. This group will present their findings and recommendations to the community, to support the larger group’s dashboard decisions.

For more information on this workgroup, visit our section of TechDocs. To join one of the subgroups listed above or this workgroup at large, email itzel.torres@contractor.ed-fi.org with the subject line “Visualization Workgroup.”

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