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The Forum Voice: Fall 2001 (Volume 4, No. 2)


Contents

Editorial Board
Summer 2001 Forum Summary
Forum Revises Winter 2002 Meeting Format
Letter from the Chair
Standing Committee News
MIS 2002: Albuquerque Bound
Upcoming Events
2001-2002 Forum Officers
Newsletter Information

Editorial Board

Raymond Yeagley, Rochester Schools (NH)
Bill Smith, Sioux Falls School District (SD)
Nerissa Bretania-Shafer, Guam Department of Education
Roger Young, Haverhill Public Schools (MA)
Ghedam Bairu, NCES


Summer 2001 Forum Summary

The Summer Meeting of the National Forum on Education Statistics was held in conjunction with the NCES Summer Data Conference during the week of July 23-27, 2001. Forum Chair Andy Rogers and Acting NCES Commissioner Gary Phillips welcomed members to Washington, DC, for what promised to be a week full of collaboration, learning, and professional growth. The Forum heard from Valena Plisko, NCES Associate Commissioner for Early Childhood, International, and Crosscutting Surveys, who reported on the Department's plans for ongoing international assessments. Peggy Carr, NCES Associate Commissioner for Assessment, underscored the point that student assessment would be a major focus of the new administration.

The Forum heard reports from its standing committees (see Standing Committee News) before receiving updates from each of the current Forum task forces. Bill Smith (Sioux Falls School District, SD), co-chair of the Crime, Violence, and Discipline Task Force, announced that the group would produce a draft report by January 2002. Mr. Smith noted that the task force has been coordinating its work with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program. He also stated that the document includes several new chapters intended to explain how state and local policy makers can use school crime, violence, and discipline data to improve school safety.

Patty Murphy (Utah State Office of Education), chair of the Education Facilities Task Force, explained that the group has undertaken a very complex task to define facilities data elements that are useful for education policymaking. The report, entitled Education Facilities: A Blue Print for Information, is focused on the use, collection, and management of data elements that describe school facilities. Ms. Murphy announced that the report will be peer-reviewed in fall 2001 and hopefully submitted for approval at the Winter 2002 Meeting.

School Facility Maintenance Task Force chair Roger Young (Haverhill Public Schools, MA) updated the Forum on the progress of his project, which is a formal partnership between the Forum and the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO) International. He reported that the group began work as an official task force in January 2001, and by July had produced a preliminary draft that outlined best practices for school facility maintenance. Mr. Young indicated that a more developed draft would be ready for Forum review by January 2002 before being released for public comment later that spring.

Tom Ogle (Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) reported that the Technology in Schools Task Force is wrapping up its second year of work to develop definitions for identifying, quantifying, and reporting technology use in schools. The task force has completed the document's content--which addresses hardware, software, technology integration, professional development, planning, maintenance, and finance--and is now focused on revising the presentation of the information so that it better meets the needs of its target audience (e.g., school principals, superintendents, data coordinators, and state legislators). Mr. Ogle said that the document would undergo both internal review (i.e., by the task force and Forum) and external review (i.e., by outside organizations and the public) in spring 2002 before an anticipated release at the Summer 2002 Forum meeting.

Linda Champion (Florida Department of Education) reported that the Education Finance Task Force had concluded its revision of the Financial Accounting Handbook for Local and State School Systems (also known as Handbook 2R2). The final document will be released in fall 2002.

Before closing the Summer 2001 meeting, Andy Rogers introduced to the Forum Russ Whitehurst, the new Assistant Secretary for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI). Mr. Whitehurst proceeded to describe several activities central to the OERI mission. First, he reported, OERI is responsible for determining which educational policies work best among the many laws and programs enacted by the U.S. Congress. Second, OERI is responsible for supporting research on educational practices and methods that contribute to student learning. Finally, Mr. Whitehurst explained that OERI is charged with gathering statistics that describe the current state of education across the nation--without which OERI could not make informed decisions about its first two charges. Mr. Whitehurst acknowledged the important role the Forum plays in supporting cooperative education data collection activities in the United States, and encouraged Forum members to be prepared for this responsibility to increase in importance in the near future because of impending changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act legislation.

The final event of the Summer 2001 Forum meeting was the unanimous election of the following slate of officers for the 2001-2002 term: Forum Chair Lavan Dukes (Florida Department of Education) and Vice Chair Raymond Yeagley (Rochester Schools, NH); NESAC Chair Bethann Canada (Virginia Department of Education) and Vice Chair Bill Smith (Sioux Falls School District, SD); PPI Chair Ron Danforth (New York State Education Department) and Vice Chair Nerrisa Bretania-Shafer (Guam Department of Education); and TD&C Chair Blair Loudat (North Clackamas School District, OR) and Vice Chair Roger Young (Haverhill Public Schools, MA).

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Forum Revises Winter 2002 Meeting Format

NCES and the Forum Steering Committee announced that the Winter 2002 Forum meeting has been restructured in order to involve more Forum members in the Annual NCES MIS Conference. Lee Hoffman (NCES) explained that the modified Winter 2002 Forum meeting would be held in conjunction with the MIS Conference (March 11-13, 2002 in Albuquerque, New Mexico) so that NCES could support the attendance of Forum LEA representatives at the conference. This joint MIS/Forum meeting will include time for a Forum Steering Committee meeting, a plenary session, and standing committee meetings. In contrast, only active task forces and steering committee members will be meeting in Washington, DC, on January 23-25, 2002. Ms. Hoffman stated that this change to the Forum meeting format should be viewed only as a pilot this year. She also noted that every effort will be made to expand the MIS Conference session topics to include issues that directly relate to LEA interests.

Letter from the Chair

As the Forum moves forward in this new century, we are challenged by events, both internal and external to the education community, to achieve new successes. As a group, we must individually and collectively make our decisions and directions for the future a result of our successes and failures from the past.

Our challenges come in a myriad of ways. Among the more pressing challenges are those placed upon us by our local and national legislative bodies. State testing (some of it carrying very high stakes) and the President's "No Child Left Behind" program will be impacting us more than we, perhaps, realize. Major planks of the President's plan can be translated into more accountability at the state and local levels. Experience in the past from other high stakes programs has shown us that the future will result in greater demands for information in a more timely and accurate manner.

None of us can accomplish the demands placed upon us without reaching out to those with whom we must work. We must reach out at the federal, state, and local levels to achieve the greater demands that have been and will be placed upon us. The Forum has reached out to form a successful partnership with the local school districts and organizations that are closer to the forefront of our business - the education of students. As the Forum Chair this year, I want to extend this outreach to a larger audience of federal representatives and others involved in the education enterprise. We cannot succeed in meeting the higher demands placed upon us without the support of all sectors involved in the education information process.

I look forward to working more closely with each of the areas that are critical to our overall mission. the education of all students.

Lavan Dukes
Florida Department of Education

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Standing Committee News

National Education Statistics Agenda Committee (NESAC)

NESAC business began with a request from Vice Chair Bethann Canada (Virginia Department of Education) for progress reports from the four NESAC task forces--Crime, Violence, and Discipline; Education Facilities Task Force; School Facility Maintenance; and Education Finance (see Summer 2001 Forum Summaryfor a complete review of Forum task force reports).

Beth Young (NCES) then reported that the Staff Data Handbook: 2001 Edition was released in May 2001. Oona Cheung (CCSSO) followed with a PowerPoint introduction to the Education Systems Handbook, a document intended to define data elements relating to programs, schools, school districts, intermediate agencies, and state education agencies. Barbara Clements (Evaluation Software Publishing) added that the document will serve as a link between the numerous other NCES data handbooks that partially address these entities. Beth Young explained that the handbook categories and subcategories need to be finalized, data elements defined, and a data model conceptualized before the document can be completed at the end of 2002.

Pat Sherrill, representing the U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), and Barbara Clements then led a discussion about the role of the OCIO as a coordinator between the different parts of the Department of Education and its partners. Mr. Sherrill explained that the OCIO has held four regional meetings to gather information about the needs of various education entities. It has also created www.educationadvisor.com to facilitate these communication efforts and is now in the process of developing and populating an analytical tool that will compare similar education data elements. Mr. Sherrill was also able to report that the CCSSO Education Information Advisory Committee (EIAC) has agreed to establish a working group to advise the OCIO on this important task.

Finally, Oona Cheung shared a presentation about possible future NESAC agenda items. Among the issues listed were: 1) promoting education data accuracy, coordination, and comparability; 2) developing a national education data model; 3) encouraging data-driven decision making (e.g., related to teacher quality, school security, and parent-school connections); 4) providing a "context" for data interpretation (e.g., how to responsibly assess standardized testing data); 5) defining and classifying data about schools; 6) maintaining and updating standard data definitions; and 7) documenting links between existing Forum/NCES products. Vice Chair Bethann Canada closed the discussion by noting that a common theme for NESAC work appeared to be emerging around the issue of using data to make more informed decisions.

Policies, Programs, and Implementation (PPI)

PPI received updates on several education data-related issues, perhaps none of which were of more overarching importance than the impending revisions to the race and ethnicity tabulations. Chair Nick Stayrook (Fairbanks Public Schools, AK) initiated the discussion by introducing Edith McArthur (NCES), Richard Foster (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights), and Kimberly Jenkins (U.S. Department of Education, Office of the General Counsel), who reminded committee members of the changes to the race/ethnicity tabulations since October 1997. Up to that time, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recognized four racial categories: Asian or Pacific Islander, Native American or Alaskan Native, Black Non-Hispanic, and White Non-Hispanic. In order to address multi-racial designations, however, new standards were issued to separate Asian from Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders and, moreover, to permit the selection of more than one race for an individual. In doing so, the collection adopted a two-question format, which first asked whether an individual was Hispanic and then followed with a choice of five racial categories (respondents could select none, one, or more than one). In March 2000, additional guidelines were issued that aggregated each of the five basic racial categories and the four most frequently selected multi-racial categories. These nine designations were thus identified for civil rights purposes as being the categorical equivalents of "race". This did not, however, completely address the issue of ethnicity as it is applied, for example, to individuals of Hispanic descent. The Department of Education is currently sponsoring a working group to explore the Department's position on race/ethnicity collections. The group is presently in favor of a two-question format that is consistent with OMB guidance. However, this position will not be finalized until fall 2001-three years in advance of the fall 2004 implementation date, as had been requested by the Forum in a letter to the Department of Education.

On other fronts, Dennis Powell (Illinois State Board of Education) asked PPI to consider the formation of a working group to update the 1997 Forum publication, Protecting the Privacy of Student Records: Guidelines for Education Agencies. The document was written to help state education agencies, local education agencies, and schools develop policies for protecting student information from improper release while still satisfying the information needs of school officials. Mr. Powell stated that while the need to protect student information is more relevant than ever before, some of the 1997 document's recommendations need to be revised in order to better reflect changes to legislation, regulations, and best practices. PPI voted unanimously to approve the formation of a working group to prepare a proposal to accomplish the task. At the same time, PPI also approved a request from TD&C to establish a working group to provide guidance to education organizations regarding website development standards.

PPI received an update on the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). More specifically, the Family Policy Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education reported that it is working with Congress to provide guidance on issues such as data sharing, data encryption, and accountability.

Ghedam Bairu (NCES) reported that the deadline to submit fiscal year 2002 State Cooperative System task order proposals was September 14, 2001. The purpose of the task order program is to improve federal-state cooperation in the collection, processing, analysis and reporting of education data. The task orders are issued under the Cooperative System contracts between the U.S. Department of Education and state education agencies. Representatives from the National Forum on Education Statistics will review all proposals and submit their recommendations for proposal funding to NCES. NCES will then decide which states will be issued FY 2002 task order awards.

Technology, Dissemination & Communications (TD&C)

Chair Raymond Yeagley (Rochester Schools, NH) opened the TD&C meeting by requesting an update from the Technology in Schools Task Force (see Summer 2001 Forum Summary for a complete review of Forum task force reports). Andy Rogers then followed up on an issue first raised at the Winter 2001 TD&C Meeting--the development of website publishing standards for schools and education agencies. After a brief discussion, it was evident to the group that there was a glaring need for guidance in this area. The committee formally recommended the formation of a working group to discuss the topic, which was later approved by PPI.

Mr. Yeagley then reviewed the work of the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Task Force, which developed the CHARLOTTE server and completed its mandate in January 2001. Betsy Bainbridge, representing the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council, announced that her organization had agreed to manage the CHARLOTTE project for the next 3 years. Ms. Bainbridge noted that the transaction sets for educational use had been developed and that the Postsecondary group wanted to build upon the natural relationship between secondary schools and postsecondary institutions. She reported that nearly 600 schools participate in EDI and that software vendors were now creating products that meet the ANSI X12 standard. As the project host, the Standards Council will create a business plan for using CHARLOTTE, which serves as both an EDI translator and router. Ms. Bainbridge indicated that there would be future opportunities for states to help their districts use the CHARLOTTE server. Lee Hoffman (NCES) noted that New Hampshire was among the first to participate in the project--including Raymond Yeagley's Rochester School District, the New Hampshire State Department of Education, Plymouth State College, and two other New Hampshire public school districts. Ms. Hoffman commented that this was an excellent example of how cooperative system task orders could leverage technology innovation at the state and district levels.

Barbara Andrepont (Louisiana Department of Education) was then asked to update the Committee on the progress of the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF). She reported that a draft of the vendor compliance strategy was released in June 2001. Ms. Andrepont also stated that SIF wants to formalize its relationship with the Educational Testing Service (ETS), other testing companies, and state departments of education. She believes that SIF recognizes the need for help from organizations such as the Forum regarding the use and transfer of data across systems. As an example, she noted that SIF currently is looking for guidance in identifying priorities for assessment data use so that classroom teachers might more effectively rely upon state assessment data to inform instruction.

TD&C then heard from Joe Rose (NCES) regarding the Common Core of Data (CCD) XML Pilot Project. More specifically, Mr. Rose reported that NCES had partnered with Unisys, Microsoft, and State Departments of Education in Delaware, Missouri, and Wyoming to explore the potential of the XML universal data format for reporting education data. Among the project findings was a recommendation for NCES to develop both short- and long-range plans for implementing XML technologies in its data collection systems. Mr. Rose indicated that an expansion of the pilot program was the next step toward using XML to better meet district and state data needs.

At Mr. Yeagley's request, Tom Szuba then reviewed the work of the TD&C Communication and Dissemination Subcommittee, which was disbanded in July 2000 after producing a host of Forum communications tools. Mr. Yeagley raised the issue because of a concern that these Forum products needed to be maintained in an up-to-date fashion. It was proposed that the Communication and Dissemination Subcommittee be instituted as a standing group within TD&C.

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MIS 2002: Albuquerque Bound

The 15th Annual MIS Conference will be held on March 11-13, 2002 at the Hilton Albuquerque Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "Run the Numbers in the Land of Enchantment" will be co-sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the New Mexico State Department of Education. As always, the meeting promises to offer unparalleled opportunities to share information about cutting edge technology use in schools, school districts, and state departments of education.

Upcoming Events Contact
Winter Forum Task Force Meetings
* Washington, DC * January 23-25, 2002 *
Ghedam Bairu
15th Annual MIS Conference
* Albuquerque, New Mexico * March 11-13, 2002*
Mary McCrory
Winter 2002 Forum Meeting
* Albuquerque, New Mexico * March 13, 2002 *
Ghedam Bairu
NCES Fellows
* Washington, DC * May 6-10, 2002 *
Mary McCrory

2001-2002 Forum Officers


Forum Chair:   Lavan Dukes, Florida Department of Education
Vice Chair:   Raymond Yeagley, Rochester Schools (NH)
Past Chair:   Andy Rogers, Los Angeles Unified (CA)
NCES Staff:   Ghedam Bairu
NESAC Chair:   Bethann Canada, Virginia Department of Education
Vice Chair:   Bill Smith, Sioux Falls School District (SD)
NCES Staff:   Beth Young
PPI Chair:   Ronald Danforth, New York State Education Dept.
Vice Chair:   Nerissa Bretania-Shafer, Guam Dept. of Education
NCES Staff:   Ghedam Bairu
TD&C Chair:   Blair Loudat, North Clackamas School District (OR)
Vice Chair:        Roger Young, Haverhill Public Schools (MA)
NCES Staff:   Lee Hoffman

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Newsletter Information

The Forum Voice is released both as a paper document and an electronic publication that is available at http://nces.ed.gov/forum/voice.asp. To subscribe to the electronic version, visit the NCES News Flash. To subscribe to the paper document, contact Susan Rittenhouse at rittens@westat.com or (301) 294-2056.

To contact the Forum, browse: http://nces.ed.gov/forum, email: 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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