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Forum Guide to Metadata
NFES 2009-805
July 2009

Chapter 2. Description of a Metadata System

This chapter identifies common components of a metadata system for education organizations, including key points influencing metadata governance, metadata models, metadata item inventories, and comprehensive data dictionaries.

Metadata systems are driven by the information needs and characteristics of each specific organization (see exhibit 2.1). This makes it challenging, if not impossible, to describe a single model for a metadata system that would apply to every state and local education agency. Still, most metadata systems in education environments have some common features. The following description is based on these commonalities. In general terms, a robust metadata system will include

  • system governance arrangements that include policies and procedures for metadata management and use within the organization, and related roles and responsibilities for staff;
  • a metadata model that links metadata items to existing data elements and data sets;
  • a list of relevant metadata items (i.e., a metadata item inventory), including a lexicon that identifies shared vocabulary for term use and naming conventions; and
  • a comprehensive data dictionary.


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