A Message From SIF

Welcome to the first edition of SIF Works, a new quarterly publication of the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF), produced in conjunction with T.H.E. Journal. Our hope with this collaborative effort is to reach out to educators, both to keep you up to date with SIF and to encourage you to get involved with SIF in your school or district. As a former teacher and technology director, I've experienced many of the frustrations that come with trying to maintain the information necessary to manage a school system. I use those experiences to guide me as I work with the dedicated individuals who are working through SIF to make a difference in education.

I often talk about SIF having the potential to "revolutionize the business of education." For some, "business" and "education" are not words that sit together easily in a sentence. Education is viewed as the noble transmission of knowledge from generation to generation, while business seems focused only on the bottom line. However, with the expanded services that our schools provide to our children and our communities, the "business" side of education has grown considerably in recent years. From managing transportation systems that rival municipal bus fleets to feeding hundreds of children sometimes two of their three meals a day. From administering pension plans for a staff of hundreds or even thousands to constructing, maintaining and securing buildings spread across cities or counties - many used from before dawn to well into the night - educational administrators handle more "business" aspects than many private sector CEOs. And many of these systems are in place solely to support the core responsibility of schools - educating our children.

So, I ask you to take a minute and imagine education as the most efficiently run business in the world. Imagine your district harnessing the power of technology to provide you and every other educator with the kind of information you need to make the decisions that impact your students. Imagine being able to find out what you need to know, when you need to know it - regardless of what database it lives in or what system it runs on - and being able to generate state or federal reports without countless hours of data cleansing. Then imagine your district saving time and money while it d'es this, freeing you and others in your district from the drudgery of repeated data entry, and giving you the time to focus on what is really important - educating children.

For the past three years, 120 educational software companies and school systems have joined together to make this vision a reality through the development and implementation of SIF. SIF is an initiative driven by K-12 educational technology providers and educators to revolutionize the management and accessibility of data within the K-12 environment. It enables diverse applications to interact and share data efficiently, reliably and securely, regardless of the platform hosting the applications. SIF is not tied to a single vendor, platform or technology, and is fully operational in an expanding number of installations across the country. By helping schools leverage their technology investments, streamline their data entry, enable data warehousing and data mining, improve their reporting and enhance decision support, SIF is truly revolutionizing how schools work.

As I look at what has been accomplished by the SIF-member companies and school systems, I am both awed and inspired. I am awed that a group of competitors could come together to build a technology standard that not only functions well, but is so well supported that these companies are building this functionality into their products. And I am inspired that this standard and the efforts these companies are making, in concert with the efforts of educators, has the potential to truly revolutionize the business of education. As you'll see in the following pages, SIF is both an idea whose time has come and an initiative that is ready for school system involvement. I hope these pages, and the ones that follow, will give you the information you need to implement SIF in your district and join us in the next wave of educational innovation.

Tim Magner, Director of SIF

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