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The Forum Voice: Spring 2012 (Volume 15, No. 1)


Contents

Editorial Board
Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) and the Forum
REL First Year Plans
REL Northeast and Islands
REL Midwest
REL Appalachia
New and Upcoming Resources
Forum Guide to Facilities Information Management: A Resource for State and Local Education Agencies
Forum Guide to Supporting Data Access for Researchers: A State Education Agency Perspective
Forum Guide to Taking Action with Education Data
Teacher-Student Data Link Working Group
From the Archives—Forum Guide to Metadata: The Meaning Behind Education Data (2009)
Updates and Events
New Members and Associates
Winter 2012 Meeting Recap
2011-2012 Forum Officers
Newsletter Information
Links to Past Issues of the Forum Voice

Editorial Board

Tom Ogle, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Raymond Martin, Connecticut State Department of Education
Sonya Edwards, California Department of Education
Laurel Krsek, Napa Valley Unified School District (CA)
Ghedam Bairu, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education




Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) and the Forum

IES LogoThe Forum is pleased to welcome representatives of nine RELs as associate Forum members. The success of the Forum relies upon the diverse expertise of its members, who share a commitment to improving the quality, comparability, and usefulness of education data. The new REL associates share this commitment, and bring to the Forum experience and knowledge in data use, education research, and regional educational perspectives.

Forum REL representatives include:

  • Chris Brandt, Regional Educational Laboratory—Midwest
  • Arthur Burke, Regional Educational Laboratory—Northwest
  • Chris Cobitz, Regional Educational Laboratory—Mid-Atlantic
  • John Hughes, Regional Educational Laboratory—Southeast
  • Wendy Kekahio, Regional Educational Laboratory—Pacific
  • Julie Kochanek, Regional Educational Laboratory—Northeast and Islands
  • Ellen Mandinach, Regional Educational Laboratory—West
  • Steve Meyer, Regional Educational Laboratory—Central
  • Robert Muller, Regional Educational Laboratory—Appalachia

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) awarded a new round of 5-year REL contracts in January 2012—and in February the Forum welcomed REL representatives to the Winter 2012 Forum Meeting. John Easton, Director of IES, joined the Forum meeting to provide members with an overview of the REL program and to discuss some of the new initiatives planned by RELs. In July, REL representatives joined the Summer 2012 Forum Meeting for roundtable discussions with state and local education agency representatives. Each REL is charged with helping states and school districts systematically use research and data to answer important issues of policy and practice, with the goal of improving student outcomes. RELs are increasingly focused on actionable research and each REL is working to build research alliances, expand state and local education agency (SEA and LEA) capacity for research and data use, and provide technical assistance. Further information on the REL program is available at http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/.

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REL First Year Plans

In an effort to facilitate three-way discussions between SEA, LEA, and REL representatives, the Forum is hosting a series of web conferences for Forum, REL, and Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) representatives. The first three conferences provided information on REL Northeast and Islands, REL Midwest, and REL Appalachia.

 

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REL Northeast and Islands

REL Northeast and Islands pictureOn March 23, 2012, Julie Kochanek, Director of Research, REL Northeast and Islands (REL-NEI), gave a presentation on the REL research agenda, structure, and first year plans to SEA and LEA representatives from her region. REL-NEI serves Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Vermont, and is administered by Education Development Center, Inc. Major partners include Learning Innovations at WestEd and the American Institutes for Research. The work of REL-NEI is guided by four core priorities:

  • identifying and retaining effective teachers and principals;
  • improving low-performing schools and districts;
  • ensuring educational equity and supporting special populations; and
  • increasing college and career readiness, access, and completion.

Eight research alliances are working towards these goals. The focus and composition of each alliance varies according to the needs of the region; while some alliances serve multiple states and districts, others are focused on a single educational jurisdiction. REL-NEI is working to expand the capacity of each alliance by involving external researchers and exploring different funding streams with the goal of ensuring alliance sustainability. In the first year of the contract, goals for all of the alliances include building and strengthening working relationships; developing coherent, long-term agendas; and beginning work that will inform the research agenda.

Web conference participants were interested in learning more about the work of the alliances to identify common data elements, and the potential for incorporating the results of this work into the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS). Participants also expressed interest in the inclusion of LEA representatives in the alliances, and Dr. Kochanek noted that REL-NEI is working to expand LEA participation in alliances. REL-NEI welcomes research questions, technical assistance requests, and other forms of interest and feedback from SEAs and LEAs. More information on REL-NEI is available at http://www.relnei.org/.

 

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REL Midwest

REL Midwest pictureOn April 5, 2012, Matt Dawson, Director of REL Midwest, gave the second Forum-sponsored REL presentation to SEA and LEA representatives from his region. REL Midwest is administered by the American Institutes for Research, and serves Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. REL Midwest is focused on seven interrelated tasks: needs sensing, research alliances, technical assistance, research and evaluation, dissemination, cross-lab communication, and management.

REL Midwest research alliances vary in their composition, including multi-state alliances, combined SEA and LEA alliances, and single district alliances. The majority of alliance work focuses on four priority areas: childhood education, educator effectiveness, college and career success, and school turnaround/ low performing schools. Broad goals for the alliances include promoting

  • change in organizational support structures related to knowledge diffusion and management;
  • change in educational policy and practice; and
  • the institutionalized application of data analytics for decisionmaking.

In the first year of the contract, alliances are focused on determining what data are available to achieve these goals, identifying ways that research questions can be formulated based on available data, and designing rigorous and actionable research. Alliances will take a systematic approach to projects, in which research will be combined with technical support to states and districts, and research methods, tools, and results will be disseminated as projects progress. Multiple product lines are planned, ranging from descriptive studies to randomized control studies and policy briefs. REL Midwest is working closely with alliance members to ensure that the planned research will be both relevant and useful to stakeholders--and will have an impact on the work of practitioners.

Participants in the web conference offered their support for the work and asked for information about submitting questions and requests for REL consideration. Dr. Dawson encouraged participants to visit the REL Midwest website and submit questions through email, and he noted that SEA and LEA questions will be aligned with the interests of the alliances whenever possible. Participants engaged Dr. Dawson in a discussion of privacy and confidentiality protections afforded different types of research. REL Midwest abides by FERPA regulations, and any public reports are stripped of identifying information. In addition, REL Midwest has the capacity to conduct internal studies that are not made public for a specific district. More information on REL Midwest is available at http://www.relmidwest.org/.

 

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REL Appalachia

REL Appalachia pictureOn May 24, 2012, Rob Muller, Director of REL Appalachia, gave the third Forum-sponsored REL presentation. REL Appalachia serves Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, and is administered by CNA. REL Appalachia’s mission is to support the applied research and technical support needs of the region, conduct empirical research and analysis, and bring evidence-based information to policy makers and practitioners. Goals for accomplishing this mission include

  • assessing regional research needs;
  • maintaining and refining research alliances;
  • providing analytic technical support;
  • conducting research and evaluation studies;
  • distributing results; and
  • coordinating and partnering with other RELs as well as other federal, state, and local education research and technical assistance organizations.

REL Appalachia has developed a theory of change encompassing these goals to guide the progression of work. The theory of change includes regular feedback and ongoing needs assessment, quality assurance, coordination, and collaboration. Research alliances are working to address the three major thematic areas targeted by REL Appalachia: ensuring college and career readiness, improving low-achieving schools, and supporting effective teachers and leaders. These research alliances will develop a range of products and will also provide events such as workshops and webinars to bridge research and practice.

Webinar participants were interested in learning how the overall work of the REL and the work of the alliances will be tailored to the needs of SEAs and LEAs, and how SEAs and LEAs can initiate contact with the REL. REL Appalachia provides a reference desk for SEA and LEA questions. Moreover, SEAs participate in the REL Appalachia governing board and REL alliances include both SEA and LEA participation. While much of the research will be focused on the work of alliances, there are also resources available to support additional regional research needs. Dr. Muller answered questions regarding how REL topic areas were chosen and emphasized the commitment of REL Appalachia to addressing the needs of the region.

REL Appalachia welcomes insight into how the REL can align with the research interests of the region and support both research and analysis work done by SEAs and LEAs. Dr. Muller encouraged participants to contact the REL and provided information on accessing information on REL events and subscribing to the REL Appalachia monthly newsletter. More information on REL Appalachia is available at www.RELAppalachia.org.

 

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New and Upcoming Resources


Forum Guide to Facilities Information Management: A Resource for State and Local Education Agencies

Faciliities Information Management coverThe Forum is pleased to announce the publication of the Forum Guide to Facilities Information Management: A Resource for State and Local Education Agencies. This new guide updates a 2003 Forum resource, and provides a framework for collecting and maintaining education facilities data. Data collected and maintained in facility information systems can inform and guide decisionmaking about the utility, efficiency, safety, and adequacy of school facilities. This Forum guide provides resources and best practices for planning and developing facility information systems within a policy framework and it provides a comprehensive list of recommended facility data elements. The Forum assembled a diverse group of facilities management experts to develop the guide, including architects, school business managers, school facilities planners and officials, information management specialists, researchers, and advocates.

 

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Forum Guide to Supporting Data Access for Researchers: A State Education Agency Perspective

Supporting Data Access for Researchers coverThe Forum is pleased to announce the publication of the Forum Guide to Supporting Data Access for Researchers: A State Education Agency Perspective. This guide provides a set of core practices, operations, and templates that can be adopted and adapted by education agencies that engage in voluntary data sharing with researchers. The guide is intended for data policymakers and managers who are generally responsible for responding to requests for data. A secondary, but important, audience is members of the research community who submit data requests to education agencies. The guide provides information on releasing data to researchers as well as providing access to data through State Education Research Data Centers. Templates in the document were based on current practices used by SEAs and national organizations.

 

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Forum Guide to Taking Action with Education Data

The Forum Data Use Working Group met at the Winter 2012 Forum Meeting in San Diego and achieved considerable progress on the development of the Forum Guide to Taking Action with Education Data. This new guide will begin with an Introduction that includes an overview of the evolving nature of data use, basic data use concepts, a list of skills necessary for effectively using data, and a conceptual model of the cycle of data use. Following the introduction, a series of briefs will discuss education data use among different stakeholder audiences. Briefs are currently being developed for three audiences: educators, school and district leaders, and state program staff. Each brief is designed to present an overview of data use that is applicable to these stakeholders in their real-world work. Upon completion, drafts will be reviewed by members of each stakeholder group to confirm relevance and usefulness. Additional briefs to target the data use needs of other stakeholder groups are under consideration.

 

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Teacher-Student Data Link Working Group

Teacher-Student Data Link Working Group pictureThe Teacher-Student Data Link Working Group is developing a best practice guide for SEAs and LEAs implementing teacher-student data links. The guide will address components of the link, use cases, and ways to overcome implementation challenges. It will build on existing work and offer practical information, with a substantial focus on LEA implementation of the link. Lee Rabbitt, who is chairing the working group, met with each Forum Standing Committee at the Winter 2012 Forum to solicit ideas and input on developing the guide. Forum members suggested topics for inclusion in the guide, such as how the link can accommodate virtual education and complex teaching assignments. The group met again in July 2012 and is also continuing to work through web meetings.

 

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From the Archives—Forum Guide to Metadata: The Meaning Behind Education Data (2009)

Guide to Metadata coverThe Forum Guide to Metadata: The Meaning Behind Education Data, published in 2009, was designed to empower stakeholders to more effectively use data as information. The guide begins with a discussion of the benefits gained from high quality metadata (data about data) and the growing need for metadata systems as data sets become increasingly complex. Subsequent chapters provide an overview of metadata systems, identify common metadata items, discuss considerations for successfully implementing a metadata system, and emphasize the importance of robust metadata systems for education agencies. Appendices provide resources and definitions useful to agencies interested in implementing metadata systems.

Metadata are essential for managing, understanding, and using complex education data. Forum working groups are currently developing multiple resources on topics related to the effective and responsible use of data, and this Forum guide is a valuable resource for education stakeholders who will use these new documents. A well-managed metadata system includes accurate and up-to-date definitions, parameters, and usage instructions, Metadata also provide the framework for accurately linking data from different data systems (i.e. linking educator and student data, or health data with school data).

 

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Updates and Events


New Members and Associates

The Forum is pleased to welcome the following new members and associates. We look forward to working with them.

  • Laura Boudreaux, Louisiana Department of Education
  • Paul Butler-Nalin, South Carolina Department of Education
  • Sarah Cox, Arkansas Department of Education
  • Drew Dilly, Wyoming Department of Education
  • Sally Gordon, Minnesota Department of Education
  • Reylam Guerra-Goderich, Puerto Rico Department of Education
  • Kent Hatcher, Indiana Department of Education
  • Chandra Haislet, Maryland State Department of Education
  • Jared Knowles, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
  • Edward Moreno-Alonso, Puerto Rico Department of Education
  • Gary Niehaus, McLean County Unit School District 5 (IL)
  • Sameano Porchea, Nebraska Department of Education
  • Michael Sessa, Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council
  • Annette Severson, Colorado Department of Education
  • Peg Votta, Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • John Walker, Henryetta Public Schools (OK)
  • Susan Williams, Wyoming Department of Education

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Winter 2012 Meeting Recap

The Forum met on February 13-14, 2012, in San Diego, California. Forum Chair David Weinberger (Yonkers Public Schools, NY) opened the meeting by introducing new members and Sonya Edwards (California Department of Education) provided a warm welcome to California. Ross Santy and Lily Clark (Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, U.S. Department of Education) began the meeting with an overview of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Flexibility and changes to the National School Lunch Program. Representatives of California's Solana Beach School District then gave a presentation on data use from the perspectives of a superintendent, a principal, and a teacher. In the afternoon, Kathleen Styles (Chief Privacy Officer, U.S. Department of Education) joined the group for a much-anticipated update on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Standing committees met to discuss topics of particular interest to committee members, such as the Civil Rights Data Collection, the transformation of data to information, and P-20 feedback reports. Invited speakers visited each committee to lead discussions and provide updates: Jim Campbell (AEM Corporation) discussed recent work on the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS); Kathleen Styles and Jack Buckley (ED) discussed the development of a data release policy; Emily Anthony and Nancy Sharkey (NCES) discussed the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) Grant Program; and Bill Huennekens (Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction) provided information on data governance and career and technical education in the state of Washington. The meeting concluded with a presentation from John Easton (Director, Institute of Education Sciences) on the Regional Educational Laboratory program and an update from Jack Buckley (Commissioner, National Center for Education Statistics) on CEDS. Complete meeting notes are now available at http://nces.ed.gov/forum/winter_12.asp#g.

 

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2011-2012 Forum Officers


Forum Chair: David Weinberger, Yonkers Public School (NY)
Vice Chair:  Tom Ogle, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Past Chair: Kathy Gosa, Kansas State Department of Education
   
NESAC Chair: Cheryl McMurtrey, Mountain Home School District 193 (ID)
NESAC Vice Chair:     Raymond Martin, Connecticut State Department of Education
   
PPI Chair: Tom Howell, State of Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information
PPI Vice Chair:    Sonya Edwards, California Department of Education
 
TECH Chair: Peter Tamayo, Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
TECH Vice Chair:   Laurel Krsek, Napa Valley Unified School District (CA)

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Newsletter Information

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

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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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