Implementing a Data Integration Framework!

written by Debbie Karcher

Data dependency and data usage in K12 organizations continue to drive many technology projects. Since the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was  introduced in 2001 districts have been creating data warehouses, developing reports and dashboards to meet the NCLB data requirements.  As districts continue to  integrate and transfer data to and from multiple systems and decide on interoperability standards this article discusses the need for an Interface Identification and Implementation framework.  Having processes in place will assist the district in data ownership decisions, reduce redundancy or data feeds, and improve the integrity and accuracy of the data.  This article discusses three current influences that drives a data integration framework. They are  Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), personalized and differentiated instruction, and the Internet of Things (Iot). There new influences and requirements will need an entirely new set of integration points and data models.

ESSA states that all schools receiving Title 1  funding must report the average cost per student at the school level. This includes teacher salaries and operational costs. This also means that districts will have to access and integrate this information from Human Capital, Finance, Transportation, and Student Information Systems. Other costs, such as instructional material, will have to be prorated on a state or district approved formula.

Districts are already experiencing the need for combining and reporting data from assessment and curriculum systems. Besides the annual big stake assessments, students are tested on a regular basis, to discover any learning gaps throughout the year.  These results are often used by districts to add supplemental instruction such as assigning reading coaches, providing teacher professional development, and determining learning alternatives that are unique to the individual student’s needs. Data from multiple systems help drive these decisions.

The IoT devices such as cameras, smart lighting, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems are already being used in school districts to assist in managing the facilities. These systems provide notifications to staff, regarding usage, concern levels, and maintenance schedules. These systems need to be integrated into plant maintenance, building security, and notifications systems to be fully utilized.

A district may already be doing many of the activities included in an Interface Identification and Implementation Framework, but it may not be formalized or used by the entire organization.  A Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat (SOWT) or a discovery exercise could be performed to determine district data flows, redundant data reporting, and possible data security exposures. A SWOT can also provide an inventory of the data feeds already in place and their use. This information is needed to tailor a framework that is unique to the district.  The strategy should be generic enough to handle both internal and external feeds and easily changed to meet need technological requirements. It should allow  flexibility when designing interfaces because not one strategy will fit all requirements (step 7).  All current and future interfaces should follow the activities and steps provided in the following example:  

  1. Describe integration application
  2. Describe existing integrations that may be generated to or from the application (designed to discover other manual or automated workflows)
  3. Define data involved (data mapping)
  4. Define how data will be used (consumption)
  5. Describe high-level data flows
  6. Determine if data feed already exists or will have to be a new one
  7. Detail  data movement technology, frequency,  methodology
  8. Define detailed data flow with processes work estimation to complete
  9. Provide the resources needed to complete the workflow. The Consortium of School Networks (COSN) has recently introduced a calculator that can be used to project costs
  10. Security assessment as defined in the data governance or cybersecurity plan
  11. Test data feed
  12. Implement
  13. Monitor for any problems
  14. Include governance of data feeds in a data governance plan exists
  15. Provide details of legal compliance and data protection
  16. Provide interface support structure
  17. Documentation for ongoing maintenance

Unsure as how to start? Worldgate has the expertise and K12 business experience to get your plan developed and implemented. This is a project that only needs to be resourced once. See our recent article that discusses the One-time Resource Model.  Districts can choose to implement this framework, on their own,  as new requests for data interfaces are made or changes are made to existing data feeds. Each step mentioned above can be developed and implemented in phases that are the most advantageous to the district.