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Report: Educators Need Standards, Interoperability To Make Data Useful

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) has released a report, Transforming Data to Information in Service of Learning, to help education leaders understand how to support the use of data personalized learning.

Although much data is collected by educational institutions in the United States, "Most data currently being collected isn't captured to inform instruction; it's used for the purposes of state or federal accountability reporting," according to the report. "Some kinds of data that could give teachers and students immediate insight for personalizing instruction are not being captured at all or not in a systematic fashion."

Other challenges cited by the report as preventing full use of data include:

  • Poor integration, with difficult, time-consuming manual processes;
  • The difficulty of identifying valuable and relevant resources that "adhere to defined levels of quality and alignment to standards";
  • Competing approaches to aligning resources with state standards;
  • There's no way for students or their families to access their own data and share it securely;
  • Storage systems used by districts are often "cobbled together," costly, and located offsite;
  • "There is confusion regarding legal provisions and disclosures about student records, where they reside in digital form, and to what uses they can be put";
  • Data migration between different technology vendors is not assured;
  • Creation of student profiles often requires instructors or administrators to take relevant data from multiple systems or sources and collate it manually to be of any use;
  • Multiple logins among disparate systems; and
  • An inability to display real-time data in useful, insightful, or relevant ways.

"Data holds tremendous power to unlock tools and resources for teachers and students to better personalize teaching and learning," said Illinois State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch, in a prepared statement. "In Illinois, we are pursuing initiatives that make technology more accessible and effective for our schools, and I applaud SETDA for their efforts to examine how we can bring the digital experience more safely and effectively into the classroom."

The report offers three recommendations to improve the use of data in education:

  • A long-term roadmap for interoperability;
  • An "ongoing mechanism to certify best practices and address transparency related to the privacy and security of student data"; and
  • Addressing standards and interoperability with vendors during the procurement process.

To read the full report, which offers examples of initiatives addressing some of the issues above, visit

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].