...

SIF Hits the Road With the Compliance Beta Program

The methods used to collect, organize and analyze school system information have often been slow, labor-intensive and redundant. Double or triple entry; isolated and proprietary software programs; incompatible file formats; and decentralized data collection have all become staples of the school information culture. Educators consistently lament the fact that financial management, administration, library, transportation routing, instructional management and cafeteria applications do not work together.

To help overcome the technical hurdles of data sharing, streamline school administrative reporting and improve school management, a group of software companies and school systems joined together in 1999 to create the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF). By bringing together some of the best minds in educational software to develop the technical means to share data between school system software applications, SIF helps educators maximize their instructional and administrative software investments to utilize staff and faculty time more efficiently. In addition, accessing and aggregating data from these disparate systems will make it easier for schools and districts to generate reports, helping educators analyze data for faster, more accurate decision making.

SIF has spent the past two years developing both the data definitions and the technical infrastructure necessary to enable application interoperability for schools and school systems. They have published these as the SIF Specification. SIF functionality is being built into a variety of software applications by a wide range of vendors, and is ready to be deployed in schools.

A Call for Schools

SIF-enabled applications have been successfully implemented at four showcase sites. And SIF is now expanding its call for schools through the Compliance Beta Program. Essentially, a Compliance Beta Site is comprised of:

- A school/district or consortia;

- Two or more software companies, or other solution providers and their SIF-enabled software programs; and

- A Zone Integration Server (ZIS).

This program was instituted by SIF so schools and school systems could work together with teams of software companies to implement SIF-enabled applications at installations chosen to be Compliance Beta Sites.

The opportunity for collaboration is twofold. For schools, this is an excellent opportunity not only to be leaders in improved technical implementations, but also in establishing the next wave of school management methodology. By harnessing the power of SIF, school and district administrators can begin to develop efficiencies within their institutions, as well as begin leveraging information for decision making.

For companies, this is an opportunity for them to authenticate their Agents and ZIS in real-world scenarios, collaborate with other companies in transferring data, and work with schools to streamline the delivery of mission-critical data. Together, this collaboration is an excellent means of both improving school management and evaluating the specification and software. In addition, this program will allow participating companies to hone their Agents in preparation for the third-party Compliance Testing currently under development.

School/District Criteria

To ensure the Compliance Beta Sites are prepared to support this developmental testing, schools or school districts interested in participating in the Compliance Beta Program must apply to become a SIF Compliance Beta Site. Schools must also meet some technical and administrative criteria, which is available on the SIF Web site.

In addition, because a SIF implementation involves not just software installations, but true application interoperability, much of the work of a SIF implementation involves data and management decisions at the school and district levels. As a result, any school interested in becoming a Compliance Beta Site may wish to rely on the services of a third-party integrator, such as a local consulting firm or educational service agency, to help support the departmental and data management efforts necessary to achieve the efficiencies envisioned by SIF.

Conclusion

Supported by many of the leaders in educational software, SIF is dedicated to helping schools move toward more efficient and effective data management practices so they will be better able to support success for all students.

For more information on how your school can become involved, visit the SIF Web site at www.sifinfo.org or e-mail Tim Magner at tmagner@siia.net.


Come see how SIF works at these events:

FETC
March 6-8, Orlando, Fla. - Live Demonstration

NCES
March 11-13, Albuquerque, NM - Live Demonstration

NECC
June 17-19, San Antonio, TX - Live Demonstration

NSBA's Technology + Learning Conference
Nov. 13-15, Dallas, TX

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.

comments powered by Disqus