Reese Robinson: Ed-Fi & Delaware’s Education Insight project

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”  “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. 
“I don’t much care where,” said Alice. 
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. 

Every project benefits from a clear focus on the desired outcomes.

In Delaware, we have just completed the pilot rollout of our longitudinal data warehouse and performance management dashboards. Both are based on Ed-Fi standards and the Ed-Fi dashboard code base. These projects, collectively known as “Education Insight,” are a cornerstone of Delaware’s Race to the Top initiative, focused on enabling data-driven decision making throughout the education system and contributing to improved outcomes for Delaware students.

Development, implementation, deployment

The Education Insight dashboard was developed in one year, starting with the signing of contracts with our vendors and ending with the first access of the dashboard by our pilot users. During that year, we went through a number of steps including:

  • Building the technical infrastructure
  • Identifying our data sources
  • Establishing the warehouse
  • Loading 33 distinct data sources to the warehouse
  • Defining dashboard metrics and thresholds
  • Developing the dashboard
  • Loading metrics to the dashboard
  • Conducting end-to-end testing
  • Training pilot users

Today, the dashboard is in use by 10 schools in four districts. Statewide deployment is scheduled for the start of the school year this fall.

This progress obviously required a good deal of hard work by a talented development team. But it was accomplished quickly, and with few of the setbacks and delays often associated with systems development projects. I believe both the speed and relative ease of implementation can be attributed to our use of the Ed-Fi data standard to guide the analysis, design and development process.

Ed-Fi standards are well vetted, both functionally and technically. The Ed-Fi data and structures are the logical extension of educational data standards that have been years in development; the metrics are grounded in education research and policy; the dashboard user experience has been polished through the feedback of thousands of teachers, administrators and policy makers; and the underlying dashboard technology was constructed with a focus on quality, stability and extensibility.

The Ed-Fi Edge

Ed-Fi standards are well vetted, both functionally and technically. The Ed-Fi data and structures are the logical extension of educational data standards that have been years in development; the metrics are grounded in education research and policy; the dashboard user experience has been polished through the feedback of thousands of teachers, administrators and policy makers; and the underlying dashboard technology was constructed with a focus on quality, stability and extensibility.  And all of this has been exceptionally well documented by the foundation project team.

For the development process, these characteristics translated into little wasted time on requirements analysis, systems design and management review. The path forward was always clear, and the main technical challenge was mapping Delaware data and practices to those contained in the standard.

This type of effort does require an organizational commitment to the Ed-Fi standard, and a willingness to adapt existing systems and processes to be standards-compliant. But in Delaware, the rewards for the work are already clear: A faster development cycle, lower cost and solutions in the hands of users sooner than would be otherwise possible.

To learn more about how states are using Ed-Fi to help teachers and students, read Lori Fey’s post on Ed-Fi momentum less than year after roll out.