IT Trends

Schools Still Struggle with Data Interoperability

A recent survey among members of the League of Innovative Schools found that while every participating district had dedicated staff for managing data, their maturity in data integration was all over the map. Only a third of respondents (33 percent), for example, report that more than half of their teaching and learning tools are linked with their student information systems. That represents a lot of data that won't ever find its way into the SIS. Almost three-quarters (74 percent) said their districts use more than 26 education technology or software products; 17 percent use more than 100.

The survey was small — 40 CTOs, data administrators and others who work within League schools or districts. The League is an initiative of Digital Promise, to bring together a peer-selected network of education leaders who agree to team up with ed tech companies, researchers and others to provide a test-bed for new approaches in teaching and learning.

While nearly nine in 10 respondents (88 percent) said that data interoperability was a consideration in decision-making for new ed tech purchases, fewer than half (41 percent) as many thought teachers would say the same. As one director of technology and innovation pointed out, while the district or a school will only provide "approved" software or tools, the rules don't prohibit teachers from getting and using software outside of the approved list.

Six priorities surfaced in the survey among district leaders:

  • Increasing privacy and security of student data;
  • Promoting learning;
  • Finding ways to give more time back to teachers and administrators;
  • Improving the quality of data;
  • Doing better reporting of data; and
  • Staying compliant with federal and state regulations.

The biggest areas of trouble:

  • Working with companies that won't or can't integrate the data their programs produce with an existing LMS or SIS;
  • Managing multiple logons;
  • Ensuring data privacy;
  • Having to do multiple integrations to extract data from systems;
  • Handling auto-population of roster data; and
  • Monitoring apps and "freemium" programs that haven't been officially approved by the district.

To help educators grapple with data-related challenges, survey sponsor Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has made a number of case studies for handling data interoperability available on the foundation website here.

A summary of the survey findings is available on the Digital Promise website here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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