jump to navigation

Vertical vs. Longitudinal Reporting February 25, 2009

Posted by ajackl in Educational Technology, Enterprise Architecture.
Tags: ,

Someone asked me a basic question which, at first, I thought was obvious and then upon asking around discovered was not so obvious.     In the State enterprise system conversation what is the difference between “vertical reporting” and “longitudinal reporting”?

The answer is simple and complex:  time and space.

First, space: “vertical reporting” refers to the movement of data between organizations at different levels of hierarchy in their area.  For instance, many schools belong to a district, many districts belong to a regional service center, and many regional service centers belong to a state (some states skip the regionals).  Vertical reporting is the movement of data up that chain of organizations:  school data go UP to district which transmits them UP to the state.  Sometimes people will talk about “vertical interoperability” which means data can go both ways.

Second, time: “Longitudinal reporting” refers to the reporting, acquisition, and dispaly of data that have a time element to them.  It is often represented by graphs.  For instsance the change in enrollment over the last ten years would be an example of longitudinal reporting. Longitudinal reporting is the reporting of data with a time element attached and used as a dimension.

When people refer to longitudinal data systems (as in LDS Grants) they are referring to systems that almost always have a vertical and a longitudinal component to them.


SIF doesn’t work… or does it? February 25, 2009

Posted by ajackl in Educational Technology, Enterprise Architecture, Leadership, Management, SIF, The Three Laws of Performance.
Tags: , , , ,

I have been observing an interesting phenomonon at play around the Schools Interoperability Specification.   It has to do with the First Law of Performance from a book I am reading right now (http://www.threelawsofperformance.com/).  The First Law states that people’s actions are correlated to the way the world occurs to them.

At one level that is a no brainer.  Of course that would be true.  But we don’t act that way.  We act as if the way it occurs for us is the truth.  An example of this came up at the National Education Data Conference in Seattle last week.    Someone mentioned to me that a panel of people had spoken to all the states who had recieved longitudinal data grants from the government and had shared how SIF didn’t work.  They spoke about it like an “of course”.  Other states though were walking around talking about how SIF was revolutionizing their data quality and data collections.  How could they both be true.   I have heard these extreme positions multiple times.

What became clear to me is that people were speaking, and complaining, based on the way the world occurred to them.  It isn’t that they were “wrong”, though I was apt to leap to that conclusion,  they were just speaking their “TRUTH”.  What is so is that SIF is working in hundreds and hundreds of districts in a horizontal (which is to say local to a school or district) or “classic” deployment, and is working statewide in a few states in a vertical manner, and half a dozen other states are working on it.  So why the bad press?

I say it is because the problem that SIF is brought in to solve is complicated.    Building enterprise architectures out into deployments that scale multiple levels of organizations (school, district, regional, state),  broad breadth (all the districts, all the schools) , and heterogenous applications (Student Information Systems of multiple types, Transcript brokers, state data warehouses, data collection tools, etc.) is complicated stuff.  The data flow inside any one of these components is complicated enough.  Managing the data flow through and around them all is hideously complicated.  Thus the issue.

Most states are not approaching the problem with an appropriate respect for that complexity.  They buy a product (like an off-the-shelf “data warehouse” or similar product)  and expect that to solve the problem without really mapping out their issues, use cases, data architecture and process flows and then putting together a system that works.    Then when the system falls inward on itself or doesn’t hit its milestones it becomes “SIF doesn’t work”.  The truth is  enterprise system design is hard, and almost impossible to succeed at in a political, consensus-driven environment.    There are so many points of failure and SIF- in automating the processes- reveals those breakdowns and issues, and, as with most messengers, often loses its head.

When you want an assessment of something make sure you are asking someone who understands those types of problems and has a track record with them.   The person who has never succeeeded may just not know what it takes, and then they will cry to the world “Don’t do X”.  If we can understand the root cause of the failure suddenly the world will appear a different way and then our actions will be correlated to that new view.

Now, telling who the real experts are and who the savvy sales people who memorize the jargon du jour… that is another problem entirely!

The path forward- taking strides not small steps! January 22, 2009

Posted by ajackl in Education, Educational Technology, Enterprise Architecture, Schools Interoperability Framework, SIF.
Tags: , , ,

I have been thinking about what we will use the economic stimulus package for.  Particularly the parts impacting education.

I am going to not address tools that would be purchased singly by a teacher or school, but, rather, enterprise solutions- with economies of scale- that would be implemented at the district or state level.

Here is my initial list.   I hope you are listening Arne Duncan!!! 🙂

1. Flexible, SIF-enabled, unit-record-level(student, staff, course/section, building, district),  data quality-enforcing data collection systems.

2.  Semantically-tagged, multi-purpose, longitudinal, flexibly periodic, data storage

3. Enterprise Directory-enabled Portal solutions that provide authorization down to the parent, student, teacher level and provide security for both access to applications and resources but also constrict viewing parameters on reports.   Centralized management and indentity services but decentralized control

4. Inside these portal solutions Communities of Practice (data providers, teachers, families, program providors),  with collaboration and file sharing capabilities as well as access to reports designed specifically for them, and workflow tailored for them.

5. Learning Standards Repository and National Data Model and NCES Handbooks all available in referencible form and allowing free access to the date through a variety of APIs.

6.  Working with SIF and PESC and others to construct Transcript standards  and templates for the whole country

7. Mature the SCED specification to include elementary school and more metadata.

8. Mature the SIF specification to provide more value and out of the box interoperability to systems all through pk12.

9.  Provide Best Practices for maturing systems that are not driven by a single solution-providor but by healthy, standards-linked functionality.