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The Forum Voice: Spring 2003 (Volume 6, No. 1)


Contents

Forum Resources Address Technology Use
Weaving a Secure Web Around Education
Technology in Schools
Building An Automated Student Record System
Technology @ Your Fingertips
Safeguarding Your Technology
Coming Down the Pike: The Forum in Action
Image Used as a TabGuidelines for Data Quality Task Force
Image Used as a TabEducation Facilities Task Force
Image Used as a TabEducation Performance Indicators Task Force
Forum Brochure: Power Tools for Your Schools
Forum Partnerships: Collaborating to Achieve Shared Successes
On the Forum Web Site…
Upcoming Events
2002-2003 Forum Officers
Newsletter Information
Links to Past Issues of the Forum Voice

Editorial Board

Bethann Canada, Virginia Department of Education
Gerald Hottinger, Pennsylvania Department of Education
Tom Purwin, Jersey City (NJ) Public Schools
Ghedam Bairu, National Center for Education Statistics


Forum Resources Address Technology Use

In recent years, the education system has invested heavily in computing technology—primarily as a means for improving instruction and administration. Technology has streamlined data collection efforts, supported management and policy-making, enhanced reporting, and improved record keeping. At the same time, the introduction of technology has brought with it new and otherwise unanticipated challenges to the education data community. For example, how does a school organization define its technology needs and capabilities? How does it secure its equipment and websites? How does it build an automated student data system or purchase needed equipment and services?

The National Forum on Education Statistics recognizes that these and other technology-related concerns are being raised in schools, districts, and state education agencies across the nation. In an effort to address these important issues, the Forum has developed several new publications about technology use in education. Information about these and other Forum resources can be accessed on the Publications and Project Summaries page.

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Weaving a Secure Web Around Education

While the Internet offers seemingly unlimited opportunities to students and educators, it also poses unique and unprecedented challenges. School organizations must understand what they are getting into when deciding to access and share information over the Internet. In other words, they must know what the Internet is, how the World Wide Web can be used in education, and how education agencies can secure information on their own Internet nodes or websites.

Weaving a Secure Web around Education: A Guide to Technology Standards and Security has been developed by NCES and the Forum to help with this important and challenging issue. The purpose of the document is to provide guidance specifically to education agencies about the development, maintenance, and standardization of effective World Wide Web sites. The Guide also offers a detailed examination of the steps that can be taken to secure an organization’s Internet node (connection point) and the network that sends information from computer to computer within the organization.

The Guide opens with a discussion of appropriate types of content for web sites at various levels of the education environment. Web publishing standards are also incorporated. Moreover, policy makers are encouraged to think about usability guidelines as they relate to federal and state regulations for accessibility, privacy rights, and copyright regulations. Appendices include a description of a local area network, sample policies that could be used by districts or state departments of education, access options for education organizations, and a glossary of relevant terms and definitions.

Weaving a Secure Web around Education (NCES 2003381) was released in 2003 and is available through the NCES Electronic Catalog or by calling 1-877-4ED-PUBS.

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Technology in Schools

Many members of the education community, including legislators, teachers, parents, and taxpayers, want to know what technology exists in their schools and how that technology is being used. These stakeholders might typically ask questions such as: How can technology support the educational vision for our district? Have we reached our technology goals yet? Where has the money gone? Are we doing as well as others?

To help educators answer these and other questions, NCES and the Forum have released a new publication titled Technology in Schools: Suggestions, Tools, and Guidelines for Assessing Technology in Elementary and Secondary Education, which has been written for people who collect, store, publish, or use information about technology in schools and local education agencies. This audience includes teachers, principals, and technology coordinators and senior staff, in addition to other staff who might need to respond to inquiries or make management decisions about technology use.

The purpose of the document is to inform decision makers about their choices with regard to the various types of technology data they might want to collect, report, or use. It also provides guidance about determining which issues are truly “key” to understanding technology needs and capabilities in an education organization. The document is structured around seven primary topics, each of which constitutes a chapter: technology planning and policies; finance; equipment and infrastructure; technology applications (software and systems); maintenance and support; professional development and training; and technology integration. The document also includes an extensive glossary of education technology terms and definitions.

Technology in Schools (NCES 2003313) was released in 2002 and is available in both paper and electronic formats through the NCES Electronic Catalog or by calling 1-877-4ED-PUBS.

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Building An Automated Student Record System

National focus on student outcomes has increased expectations on the education system to demonstrate that all children are meeting high standards for learning—and accomplishing this requires monitoring the achievement of individual students and specific groups of students in our schools. There is little doubt that an education organization’s ability to meet this challenge is determined in part by its access to complete, accurate, and timely information about its students. Thus, it is not surprising that many education organizations have decided in recent years to develop automated individual student record systems in order to enhance management and reporting capabilities. While there are many ways to accomplish this task, a proven step-by-step strategy that can help all education organizations can be found in Building an Automated Student Record System, a document released by NCES and the Forum in 2000.

The twelve-step sequence described in the document includes:

checkmark icon Determine the desired uses of the student record system.
checkmark icon Identify federal, state, and local regulations affecting the maintenance of student records.
checkmark icon Select overall system content.
checkmark icon Select the data elements to be maintained.
checkmark icon Select a system for assigning a unique identifier to each student.
checkmark icon Determine the physical design of the system.
checkmark icon Identify the format for the data within the system.
checkmark icon Determine how to enter or import data into the system.
checkmark icon Determine procedures for providing access to the system.
checkmark icon Plan ways to ensure the integrity of data.
checkmark icon Plan procedures for performing standard and ad hoc analysis and reporting.
checkmark icon Develop procedures for appropriate reporting of student data.

Detailed guidelines for implementing the twelve steps, as well as other recommendations, checklists, and examples, can be found in the document. Building an Automated Student Record System (NCES 2000324) was published in 2000 and is available free of charge through the NCES Electronic Catalog.

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Technology @ Your Fingertips

Some people assume that integrating technology into schools and education organizations is easy—after all, it is the 21st Century—but others recognize that acquiring the best technology to meet an organization’s particular circumstances (and budget) can be quite complicated. While there have been numerous books written to describe how to integrate computing and communications technology, most publications are targeted at private business or industry, which often has a different bottom line than the education community. Technology @ Your Fingertips, on the other hand, is designed specifically for the people in education settings who make important decisions regarding technology solutions. It describes a process for getting the best possible technology for your education organization. Broad steps include identifying technology needs, considering available choices, acquiring technology, and implementing a solution that will both serve the organization today and provide a foundation for the future.

Technology @ Your Fingertips (NCES 98293) was originally published in 1998, updated in 2001 and is available free of charge through the NCES Electronic Catalog.

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Safeguarding Your Technology

Many, if not most, educational administrators don’t have the technical expertise or, given their other vitally important duties, the time to devote to single-handedly developing, implementing, and monitoring information security procedures for their organizations. Nonetheless, the responsibility for both meeting the public’s demand for accountability and adequately securing information, software, and equipment is inescapable for top administrators. Safeguarding Your Technology was developed by NCES and the Forum to help with the task.

Unlike other resources on electronic information security, this guide was written specifically for educational administrators at the building, campus, district, and state. It is intended to help administrators better understand why and how to effectively secure an education organization’s information, software, and computer and networking equipment. Because this intended audience has in most cases been trained to manage education organizations and not computer systems, the document is written in non-technical language and emphasizes a step-by-step approach to protecting education information in a technology-based system, regardless of computer or network type and technical savvy. Moreover, the guidelines are presented as well-researched recommendations (rather than canned solutions) for developing security policies that can be customized to match the needs, capabilities, limitations, and unique circumstances of the reader’s organization.

The document is organized into ten content areas (chapters): Why Information Security in Education? (An Introduction); Assessing Your Needs (Risk Assessment); Security Policy (Development and Implementation); Security Management; Physical Security; Information Security; Software Security; User Access Security; Network (Internet) Security; and Training: A Necessary Investment in Staff. Each chapter includes an overview, commonly asked questions, anecdotes illustrating real-world relevance, security guidelines, and a summary checklist of “things to do” based on the guidelines.

Safeguarding Your Technology (NCES 98297) was published in 1998 and is available free of charge through the NCES Online Catalog.

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Coming Down the Pike: The Forum in Action

  • Guidelines for Data Quality Task Force: The Guidelines for Data Quality Task Force met at the Winter 2003 Forum meeting to develop best practice guidelines for improving data quality in schools and local education agencies. The group hopes to address issues such as data accuracy, validity, and integrity, staff training (e.g., for data-entry clerks/secretaries), and standard data editing procedures.

    The task force expects that the final product will be about ten pages in length and targeted at school clerks, secretaries, principals, and other onsite administrators who often are responsible for primary data collection activities in school buildings. A brochure will also be developed to help publicize the document.
  • Education Facilities Task Force: The Education Facilities Task Force convened at the Winter 2003 Forum meeting to finalize the content and discuss the design of its forthcoming publication, which is expected to be released at the Summer 2003 Forum meeting. The group was pleased with the document’s design and agreed that both calculated data elements and an extensive glossary should be included in the final product.

    The task force also agreed that it would target its marketing effort through other national education organizations, including the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), the National Clearinghouse on Education Facilities, and the Annual School Facilities Conference. Other organizations that may assist with dissemination efforts include state facilities organizations, state school boards and the National School Boards Association (NSBA), the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), bond issuers, and construction companies. The task force expects to complete its work and officially disband in July at the Summer 2003 Forum meeting.
  • Education Performance Indicators Task Force: The Education Performance Indicators Working Group was approved as a Task Force during the Winter 2003 Forum meeting. The goal of the task force is to establish best practice definitions and calculations for commonly used indicators of educational performance.

    The group met to discuss the list of indicator subcategories it had established in December 2002. The task force agreed that it was not necessary to establish an exhaustive list of indicators but, rather, to focus on identifying commonly used, or key, indicators. Thus, the original list of 200 indicators has been cut to roughly 80, each with a working definition. Indicator categories currently being used to provide structure to the effort include: expenditures, instructional time/school year, parents, readiness, safety/crime, staff ratios, staff/faculty, student achievement, student course taking, student enrollment, student participation in special programs, student proficiency, student progress, and student subgroups.

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Forum Brochure: Power Tools for Your Schools

The new Forum brochure, Power Tools for Your Schools, is now available for promoting the products and activities of the National Forum on Education Statistics. Visit the Forum Publications page for Power Tools for Your Schools and other numerous free resources the Forum has developed for schools, districts, state education agencies and the entire education data community. Power Tools for Your Schools (NCES 2003365) is available directly in both paper and electronic formats through the NCES Electronic Catalog or by calling 1-877-4ED-PUBS.

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Forum Partnerships: Collaborating to Achieve Shared Successes

The opening session of the Winter 2003 Forum Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah kicked off with a discussion about recent and future partnerships between the National Forum on Education Statistics and other national education organizations. Forum Vice Chair Bethann Canada (Virginia Department of Education) moderated a discussion with Mary Ann Wolf of the State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA), Roger Young, representing the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), and Joe Pangborn of Roger Williams University and former chair of the Forum’s Weaving a Secure Web Task Force.

All speakers agreed that combining resources and expertise is an efficient approach to addressing the multi-dimensional issues facing the education data community. In the case of SETDA, for example, the organization shared expertise during the development of the new Forum publication Technology in Schools and is using the document as the foundation for developing its own education technology data collection tools. Moreover, SETDA has helped with dissemination efforts by distributing information about the document to its membership. Similarly, ASBO introduced the Forum to several school facilities maintenance experts who later served on the Forum’s School Facilities Maintenance Task Force. ASBO also provided a mailing list of its nearly 7,000 members so that NCES could target the dissemination of the Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities.

The Forum plans on continuing its work with national organizations that share an interest in education data issues. It is hoped that this exchange of ideas will enhance the already high quality of Forum resources, increase the exposure of these resources to targeted audience groups, and publicize the activities of the Forum in general.

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On the Forum Web Site…
Selected State Agency Online Data Issues

The purpose of the Forum–sponsored Selected State Agency Online Data Issues survey is to examine state education agency (SEA) interest, status, and developmental progress in the areas of online data collection, student information systems, and decision support systems. The survey consists of 30 questions that were completed by 47 states and outlying territories in November 2002. SEA respondents will have a chance to update their responses in May and June 2003. Findings are intended to inform and facilitate cooperation between SEAs as they develop education data collection, maintenance and reporting technologies.

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Upcoming Events Contact
Summer 2003 Forum Meeting
* Washington, DC * July 21-23, 2003 *
Ghedam Bairu
NCES Summer Data Conference
* Washington, DC * July 23-25, 2003 *
Mary McCrory
NCES Fellows
* Washington, DC * November 3-7, 2003 *
Mary McCrory

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2002-2003 Forum Officers


Forum Chair: Raymond Yeagley, Rochester Schools (NH)
Vice Chair: Bethann Canada, Virginia Department of Education
Past Chair: Lavan Dukes, Florida Department of Education
Staff: Ghedam Bairu, NCES
NESAC Chair: Bill Smith, Sioux Falls School District (SD)
Staff: Beth Young, NCES
PPI Vice Chair: Gerald Hottinger, Pennsylvania Department of Education
Staff: Ghedam Bairu, NCES
TD&C Chair: Roger Young, Haverhill Public Schools (MA)
Vice Chair: Tom Purwin, Jersey City Public Schools (NJ)
Staff: Andy Rogers, ESSI

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Newsletter Information

The Forum Voice is released as an electronic publication. To subscribe, visit the NCES News Flash.

To contact the Forum, e-mail Ghedam Bairu, fax: (202) 502-7475, or write: NCES-Forum, 1990 K Street, NW, Room 9095, Washington, DC 20006-5651.

Links to Past Issues of the Forum Voice

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Publications of the National Forum on Education Statistics do not undergo the formal review required for products of the National Center for Education Statistics. The information and opinions published here are the product of the National Forum on Education Statistics and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the U.S. Department of Education or the National Center for Education Statistics.


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