The Ed-Fi Alliance is diving right into 2019 with big plans for the year ahead, and we’ve got exciting developments up our sleeves. One of our big goals this year is to better equip you, our community members, with the language and information to communicate about Ed-Fi—both about our technology and our vision for the U.S. education system. We hope you find this article helpful as a starting point, and we are in the process of developing a suite of resources to help you share your work with Ed-Fi far and wide.

What Ed-Fi Is:

Ed-Fi is a Data Standard that is Free & Open-Source

The Ed-Fi Alliance is many things. At its core, Ed-Fi is a Data Standard. Then, Ed-Fi is an Operational Data Store/API and a Technology Suite that work together to make data interoperability seamless, affordable, and secure for the education sector without limiting the technology products a school, district, or state can choose to work with. Our data standard is free and open for anyone to access.

Ed-Fi is an Open Community

Beyond the technology, Ed-Fi is a community. Our community comprises technologists, educators, administrators, agencies, collaboratives, and vendors who share interoperability solutions openly and support one another to advance the use of data for students’ success.

Ed-Fi is a Nonprofit

In terms of our structure, Ed-Fi is a not-for-profit organization funded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and is the main component of the Foundation’s efforts to enhance the uses of data in education for personalized learning and student equity. Our nonprofit status allows us to put educators and education agencies at the center of every decision we make.

The Ed-Fi Data Standard and all of our technologies are free. We never collect money from any school district or state. There is typically a cost to implementing a any new technology in the form of staff time and resources. This cost varies depending on the size of a school district or agency and the resources available to them.

To aid these implementation costs, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation offers grants and support to districts, states, and collaboratives who are prepared to implement Ed-Fi and make an impact in the classroom. The fact is, federal funding and incentives for education data interoperability are next to none, and innovative districts and states need to be supported during this early adoption stage in order to spur a paradigm shift and an economy of scale around interoperability. The more district and state success stories Ed-Fi can support in these early years, the faster the movement will gain momentum.

What Ed-Fi Isn’t:

Ed-Fi is Not a Product

Ed-Fi is not linked with any specific ed tech product or vendor. While we do have a growing pool of vendor partners who are certified users of the Ed-Fi Data Standard and Technology Suite and we encourage all education technology vendors to become Ed-Fi Certified, the whole purpose of Ed-Fi is that it allows schools, districts, and states to achieve data interoperability regardless of the technology products they choose.

Ed-Fi is Not a Dashboard

Ed-Fi is not solely a dashboard. While we do offer a dashboard tool that’s meant to serve as a starter for districts entering the world of data visualization, we offer countless other tools that aid with rostering and assessment, state and federal reporting, data mapping to the Ed-Fi Data Standard, and more. Additionally, the Ed-Fi Exchange hosts free solutions developed by members of the Ed-Fi Community.

Ed-Fi’s Technology is Not Closed

The Ed-Fi Data Standard is completely open-source. The Ed-Fi Technology Suite requires that users sign a standard license to access it, but no one has ever been denied access nor have we ever revoked an Ed-Fi license. The license simply helps us understand our user base and support them with Ed-Fi implementation.

An Ed-Fi License unlocks free access to our Operational Data Store/API, data visualization and mapping tools, issue tracker, Community 365 forum and support, the Ed-Fi Exchange, and more. We require pre-approval for proposed derivative work created from our technologies to ensure these efforts further our mission, achieve the stated purpose, and benefit the public.

Ed-Fi is Not the Wild West  

While Ed-Fi takes a community-driven approach, we are not lacking governance or leadership. The Ed-Fi team is a highly skilled and diverse cohort of technologists, former educators, and state education agency personnel, and while our governance structure ensures external stakeholders and community members are involved in our decision-making processes, our work is guided by a clear plan and vision for the future.

We seek out and incorporate the perspectives of all key players within the education sector and, develop and update our technologies in ways that are mutually beneficial for all involved. But when tough choices need to be made, we will always choose the options that move us closer to a data-driven education system where educators are empowered with real-time student data, regardless of the technology products and tools they choose.

As you continue enhancing your interoperability efforts in 2019, feel free to reach out to me any time at with questions or feedback regarding Ed-Fi’s mission, vision, or messaging. We also welcome you to look out for our Communications Council calls and join the next one—this is a group of Community members interested in learning about and contributing to our communications strategy.

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