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Summer 2009 Forum Meeting Notes

National Forum on Education Statistics
July 27-29, 2009
Bethesda, MD


Professional Development: Table and Graph Design for Effective Communication

Monday, July 27, 2009

Table and Graph Design for Effective Communication PDF File (7.3 MB)
Stephen Few of Perceptual Edge led a full-day professional development workshop entitled, "Table and Graph Design for Effective Communication." During this lively and engaging session, Mr. Few delivered a message about simplicity in design, stressing the importance of effectively communicating information by focusing on your message, medium, and key information, while sparing visual clutter in the pursuit of clarity. Mr. Few offered three "fundamental steps" in the table and graph design process:

  1. Determine your message.
  2. Select the best medium to display your message.
  3. Design all components of the display to show the data
    • Make the data (not the "non-data") prominent and clear.
    • Remove all components that aren't necessary (both data and support components).
    • Mute the support components that remain.
    • Highlight the data that are most important to your message.

In the morning, Steve set the stage, demonstrating how we often fail to translate our large supply of data into useful information. Drawing on lessons from scientific research on human perception, Mr. Few illustrated how the information contained in graphic displays of data is often obscured by poor design. Mr. Few introduced attendees to a host of suggested graphic dos and don'ts, considered the merits of both tables and graphs, and reviewed several types of graphs and the functions for which each is best suited. He also warned that while many software vendors market flashy graphic capabilities, these trappings can actually interfere with efforts to clearly communicate data. With "advances" in technology, it is often too easy to make attractive, yet ineffective graphs.

The afternoon portion of the session challenged Forum members to apply the lessons they had learned in the morning to critique various practical examples. Mr. Few made liberal use of many tables and graphs submitted by Forum members to illustrate his lessons using education data. Attendees worked in groups to come up with suggestions to improve the graphs so that they would more clearly present the highlighted information and convey the intended message.

Many of the lessons from the session were drawn from Steve's book, Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten, which is available online.

Opening Session

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Welcome and Opening Comments MS PowerPoint (1.6 MB)
Forum Chair Bruce Dacey (Delaware Department of Education) welcomed Forum members to the 2009 Summer Forum Meeting in Bethesda, Maryland. Bruce introduced this year's Forum officers and announced the release of three recently released Forum products – Forum Guide to Metadata: The Meaning Behind Education Data, the Education Data Model, Version 1 (PK-12),and Every School Day Counts: Forum Guide to Collecting and Using Attendance Data. He reviewed the meeting agenda and reported that Forum website traffic continues to grow with an average of 7,170 visits per month since June 2007. During this same period, Forum publications were downloaded as PDFs or were visited on their home pages over 6,500 times per month. The Chair then welcomed twenty-one new members to the Forum:

  • Linda Atwood, Montana Office of Public Instruction
  • Sharon Betts, Maine School Administrative District #52
  • Steve Canavero, Nevada Department of Education
  • Sheila Corey, Alaska Department of Education and Early Development
  • Edward Eiler, Lafayette School Corporation (IN)
  • David Feliciano, Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools (GA)
  • Lisa Gauvin, Vermont Department of Education
  • James Harrington, Hillsboro School District (OR)
  • Tom Howell, Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information
  • Craig Hoyle, Regional Education Laboratory – Northeast & Islands
  • Gayle Johnson, Illinois State Board of Education
  • Whit Johnstone, Irving Independent School District (TX)
  • Irma Jones, Tennessee Department of Education
  • Brent Kay, Orange Southwest Advisory Union (VT)
  • Frank "Steve" Snow, North Dakota Department of Public Instruction
  • Julius Tufa, American Samoa Department of Education
  • Ken Wagner, New York State Department of Education
  • Gary West, South Carolina Department of Education
  • Troy Wheeler, Idaho State Department of Education
  • Hans P. L'Orange, State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO)
  • Baron Rodriguez, Data Quality Campaign (DQC)

Stimulus Funds for Education MS PowerPoint (823 KB)
Carmel Martin, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development (USED), presented to the Forum on the U.S. Department of Education's "Visions and Initiatives" related to programs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). President Obama and Secretary Duncan "get it," Assistant Secretary Martin told Forum members. Not only have these leaders made education a high priority, but they have shifted to a more "holistic" view of education – including early learning and outcomes beyond K-12 in their vision for reform. And they see better data systems as one of our core tools for improving the educational system, allowing us to "focus on data, not narratives." Ms. Martin outlined the Department's goals for education reform and provided an overview of the funding and grant opportunities intended to help the education community realize this vision.

The Department would like to expand and improve early learning opportunities by improving the quality of early learning systems and better aligning early learning programs with the public school system and other social service providers. K-12 initiatives include four core areas: raising standards and improving assessments; recruiting, retaining and supporting effective educators and ensuring that they are distributed equitably; turning around low-performing schools; and building robust data systems that track student progress and help improve practice. In this latter area, the Department is promoting the use of data systems for accountability, transparency, and performance management, as well as to fuel innovation. Increasing the consistency of data standards and getting more detailed data into the hands of end users like teachers, principals and parents are key goals in this area. At the postsecondary level, the Department will work with states to improve community colleges, ensure college readiness among high school graduates, and expand awareness of and access to financial aid options.

The Assistant Secretary also discussed funding that is becoming available to support these initiatives. Ms. Martin broke down the various formula funds and competitive grant opportunities under the ARRA, and provided an introduction to some of the requirements and metrics by which applicant agencies would be assessed in Phase II of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. Additional resources, preliminary timelines for the grant application processes, and other discretionary grant programs were also discussed. A Q&A session followed the presentation, during which Ms. Martin fielded questions on topics such as teacher preparation programs, help for agencies in the grant application process, P-20 management and coordination, common assessments, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Forum's Role in Supporting National Data Standards Efforts
Lee Hoffman (NCES) (Lee's presentation ) MS PowerPoint (414 KB) and Kathy Gosa (Kansas State Department of Education) (Kathy's presentation) MS PowerPoint (877 KB) provided the Forum with a thought-provoking call to action, asking members to reflect on what the Forum's vision and ongoing role should be in support of national data standards efforts.

Lee began by framing the question and discussing the Forum's long history as a source of data standards and best practices.  After reviewing many of the Forum's products and publications dating back to 1990, she asserted that Forum members offer a unique and deeper understanding of data and how to ensure that data systems provide quality data that are feasible, useful to stakeholders, and respectful of the law. While there are many voices helping to drive a national vision, people like Forum members must be involved in the conversation if that vision is to be effectively implemented.

Kathy added to these points by reviewing how the Forumís work has helped education agencies over the years, detailing her stateís experiences as an example. Gosa suggested that the Forum and its partners, rather than taking a passive role in the current data standards movement, should actively assist in any national efforts to establish standards. We should work to ensure that data standards are drawn from and build upon the rich foundation of past work (rather than duplicate, contradict, or ignore it), and that any such efforts be feasible, technically excellent, and maintained over time. To facilitate a strong start in this effort, Kathy provided Forum Standing Committees with templates to guide further discussions about this issue. First steps will be to refine a vision and establish a plan of action, including a gap analysis and prioritized list of activities. Standing Committee suggestions were to be summarized in the Closing Session and used to guide future discussions and work around this important issue.

Tribute to Stephen Metcalf (VT) Zip File (1.9 MB)
Tom Purwin (Jersey City Public Schools, NJ) and Stacey Murdock (Vermont Department of Education) honored Stephen Metcalf with a brief presentation. Steve, a former member of the Forum who represented Montpelier School District (VT), passed away in May. He contributed to many Forum efforts including several publications and task forces.

Brownbag Lunch with Contracts Office for SEAs: Basic Participation Task Orders

Tuesday July 28, 2009

Over lunch, Contract Specialist William Spitzgo and Contracting Officer Sharon Masciana (Contracts Office, U.S. Department of Education) and Renee Rowland (NCES) provided state representatives with guidance concerning Basic Participation Task Orders. The presenters provided an overview of the program and stressed the importance of keeping bank account information up-to-date and sending emails, invoices, and deliverables to the correct address ( with a cc to William Spitzgo and Renee Rowland. They also reviewed and distributed a document containing frequently asked questions about the NCES State Cooperative Systems Contract, Basic Participation task order, and other USED programs.

Joint Session: FERPA Update

Tuesday July 28, 2009

FERPA Update MS PowerPoint (690 KB)

Paul Gammill (Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO), U.S. Department of Education) presented to the Forum on amended FERPA regulations effective since January 2009. Mr. Gammill reviewed changes to the definitions of four key terms including attendance, directory information, disclosure, and personally identifiable information. He then discussed regulations on various types of disclosures and related issues, such as outsourcing, de-identification, disclosures to school officials and researchers, use of Social Security numbers, and redisclosure. The presentation was followed by a Q&A period that included inquiries about the length of time for which researchers can keep sensitive data, data sharing through the workforce (FPCO is actively working to clarify guidance in this area), teacher access to data about past students (also an area on which FPCO is currently focusing), data use agreements, and rumors of a new interpretation of FERPA.

National Education Statistics Agenda Committee (NESAC) Standing Committee

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Morning Session

Welcome, Introductions, Agenda Review
NESAC Chair Helene Bettencourt (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) opened the committee meeting and welcomed members to the 2009 Summer Forum. Members introduced themselves by sharing a highlight from their summer. Helene quickly reviewed the activities of the Winter 2009 Forum Meeting and walked the committee members through the agenda.

Discipline Task Force Proposal
Ghedam Bairu (NCES) and Barbara Timm (USED) presented to the committee a proposal for reviewing and updating the Forum's discipline data publication, Safety in Numbers. The Forum originally published the document in 2002, printing around 10,000 copies, all of which have been distributed. Recently, the U.S. Department of Education convened an internal task force to look at the discipline data elements needed for each program area and how they map back to information and best practices provided in the publication. The Department created a crosswalk of these elements as well as a list of elements that do not appear in the document. Incident reporting and the confusion surrounding some of those elements were identified as a key area that needs to be clarified in the proposed publication update.

The Department would like the Forum to convene a working group to review and update the document. Simultaneously, the Department will work with each of the program offices that use the original the document. A motion was made to form this working group. After a second, the committee voted unanimously in favor of this work. A sign-up sheet for this group was circulated to the NESAC members.

Forum's Role in Supporting National Data Standards Efforts
During the Forum's Opening Session, Lee Hoffman (NCES) and Kathy Gosa (Kansas State Department of Education) spoke to members about the effort to establish national data standards and asked members to consider what, if any, role the Forum should play in the development and implementation of national data standards.

IES Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) Grant Program Update
Tate Gould (NCES) updated the committee on the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) grant program. To date, the program has awarded 54 grants to 42 SEAs. The program's main objective is to create a robust community and extend access to that community as well as non-grantees. To that end, the program will:

  • host regular webinars on best practices with presentations by both SEAs and LEAs;
  • re-launch LDS Share as an online document library; and
  • open the annual grantee meeting (occurring on November 16-17, 2009) to the larger audience.

On Friday, July 24, 2009, President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released the request for applications (RFA) for the fourth round of grants under funding allocated through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Applications for this round are due on November 19, 2009. This round of grants will have a strong focus on linking data through the P-20 spectrum and on making connecting student and teacher records. The ARRA legislation emphasizes 12 elements included in the America COMPETES Act as requirements for building longitudinal data systems. NCES will be convening webinars to answer questions about the RFA and the application process. Thus far, informational webinars have been scheduled for:

  • Thursday, August 27, 2009 from 1:00-2:30pm EST
  • Friday, September 18, 2009 from 2:00-3:30pm EST
  • Monday, October 5, 2009 from 12:00-1:30pm EST

For more information, visit SLDS.

Lessons Learned in Building and Using Longitudinal Data Systems (Connecticut) MS PowerPoint (351 KB)
Al Larson (Meriden Board of Education, CT) presented to the committee on the effective use of data at the LEA level. Larson has been working in his LEA to convert assessment data into meaningful information for teachers. He reported that teachers are more interested in the growth their individual students have demonstrated than in performance on a single test. However, even single test data can be useful if results show granular details that can illuminate the specific areas in which a student is struggling. Giving teachers information about what types of items each student is missing on a test can be very powerful information, allowing them to tailor instruction to meet the individual needs of their students. New tools are making it easier to collect more formative assessment data and to access these data much more quickly (near real time). Larson is working with teachers using their input to build assessments capable of delivering this type of information and to train them on the use of these data.  

Afternoon Session

Lessons Learned in Building and Using Longitudinal Data Systems (Virginia) MS PowerPoint (397 KB)
Susan Williams (Virginia Department of Education) and David Uhlig (Charlottesville City Public School, VA) provided both a state and district perspective on building and using a longitudinal student data system. From the SEA perspective, the system was driven by accountability and decisions support. SEA lessons learned included:

  • It is essential for the state to get data back into the hands of educators.
  • The SEA does not have to serve as the auditor of the data, but it is able to provide oversight. The SEA can also provide clarity to collections and even rate calculations.
  • One of the state's biggest roles is to provide dynamic rosters, which identify groups of students beyond simple class rosters. For example, a dynamic roster might be created for members of the football team or the chess club to allow districts and schools to assess whether any of these students are having academic trouble. Other groups that might be "watched" might include: 20% absent rate, multiple transfers, was previously retained, failed an assessment for 2+ years, etc.
  • The SEA can also forge postsecondary linkages. For example, Virginia has established data sharing agreements with the National Student Clearinghouse, the Advanced Placement (AP) program, College Board's SAT, International Baccalaureate (IB), and the American College Testing (ACT) program. They use rigorous matching criteria to link data back to the student information system (SIS).

Virginia's motto is that "it takes a village to raise a child, but the whole Commonwealth to build an SLDS." For that reason, it is essential that relationships be forged cooperatively with the districts. From the LEA perspective, the system has provided several advantages, such as giving districts the ability to assign user rights for local level users and to locate students when they transfer between districts within the state. The SEA has also been helpful in providing frequent webinar training on how to access and use the data.

Teachers in Virginia currently only have access to the data upon request. There is an understanding that the data needs to get into educators' hands more frequently and training is needed on how to properly use that information.

New Financial Reporting Elements
Frank Johnson (NCES) joined the committee to give an update on collecting financial data related to ARRA and Title I. There are potentially six new data elements focusing on per pupil expenditures that will be included in the school-level financial collection for FY09. The potential elements include:

  1. Current expenditures
  2. Property
  3. Instructional expenditures
  4. Other programs
  5. Title I, Title V Part A
  6. School construction

Learning Exchange and Resource Network
Chris Lohse (Council of Chief State School Officers) joined the committee to discuss the work going on at CCSSO and what the long term goals are for data work. The Council's work focuses on four strategic areas:

  1. Next Generation Learning
  2. System of Educator Development
  3. Standards, Assessment and Accountability
  4. Comprehensive Data Systems and Research

It is the Council's belief that focusing on these four areas will have the greatest impact on improved outcomes for all learners.

In focusing on the data piece, CCSSO identified five issues with the current state of education data systems across the country:

  1. Liquidity—data are not able to be shared across borders or through the education pipeline;
  2. Relevance—data collection is too focused on administrative data and not data that improve instruction; teachers receive "autopsy" data rather than "x-ray" data;
  3. Accuracy—data are often inaccurate or do not measure the appropriate indicators;
  4. Timeliness—data take too long to get from their point of creation into systems;
  5. Quality—the quality of data is suspect at best.

If we can put liquid, relevant, accurate data in the hands of teachers and district officials, we almost certainly solve the issues of timeliness and quality. To begin to address these five issues, the Council believes that states need to adopt common data standards. Having a common standard will allow data to flow more seamlessly between districts and states, and through the entire P-20 pipeline.

The longer term goal of the Council is being called the Learning Exchange and Resource Network (LEARN). This work is intended to connect existing data systems in a safe, authenticated way that manages privacy and security yet leaves control in the hands of the states. LEARN will attempt to accomplish this using existing standards for information exchange, and newly-enabled "smart content" that knows how to avail itself to teachers, students, and parents in a "just-in-time" way. By making permissioned data and smart content available to third-party application developers, market forces will be able to drive continuous improvement for learners, all while realizing greater efficiencies and cost savings.

LEA/SEA Breakout: Continued Discussion of Data Standards
The committee has often engaged in breakout sessions to discuss topics in smaller groups of LEA and SEA representatives. This breakout was originally meant to focus on operating during lean economic times, however, during the meeting the decision was made to alter this conversation to have a deeper dialogue on the topic of the Forum's role in national efforts to develop common data standards. The chairs attempted to refocus earlier conversation by asking pointed questions about whether the Forum should be reactive or proactive and what relevant tasks the organization should take on.

In the LEA breakout, members felt strongly that the Forum needs to be proactive. It is important that the Forum be engaged in any discussions around data standards because of our long history in the area. LEA members agreed that for a data standard to be adopted, there will need to be SEA and LEA buy-in. This gets to the heart of the Forum. The group had several ideas about the tasks the Forum should tackle:

  • operationalize and refresh its existing work;
  • take a comprehensive look at what is missing from current Forum guides and publications; and
  • be ready to accept invitations to engage in the conversation and respond appropriately in a timely manner.

The SEA breakout led to similar conclusions. The state representatives felt that the Forum has historically been and should remain proactive. The SEAs had a discussion about the changing responsibilities of, and interplay between, CCSSO's Education Information Management Advisory Consortium (EIMAC) and USED's EDFacts work. They agreed that each of these groups has an important role to play and that they need to work in tandem. The Forum has a litany of excellent products that need to be leveraged. SEA representatives asserted that it is evident that the environment is changing rapidly and it is increasingly important that our organization is involved in the conversation.

NESAC Election
David Weinberger (Yonkers Public Schools, NY), was officially nominated to assume the role of chair and Patricia Sullivan (Texas Education Agency) was nominated for the role of vice chair. Both nominations were seconded and approved unanimously.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Morning Session

Stimulus Funding Follow Up
At the Opening Session, Carmel Martin, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development (USED), presented to the full Forum on the different strands within the ARRA funding and how the Department plans to use that funding to further its overall goals and push for the alignment of early childhood, K-12, and postsecondary education. NESAC used this time to react to the presentation and to discuss the Race to the Top (RTTT) and State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) guidance that was released on July 24, 2009.

  • Few states have viable teacher evaluation systems or teacher performance information. Policymakers do not have a full understanding of the data issues surrounding evaluation systems and how complex the problem is.
  • In light of the emphasis on collecting and publicizing information on teacher performance, would it be advantageous to build this piece of the National Education Data Model (NEDM) to aid in establishing consistency across states?
  • Should the metrics outlined in the four assurances be added to the NEDM?
  • If we are headed toward consistencies in teacher evaluation, is there a role for the Forum? Should we define the needed data elements? Should NEDM be expanded to encompass these elements and relationships?
  • While the Forum structure is not designed to collectively respond to federal register postings, states and districts can individually respond to the guidance released on both RTTT and SFSF.

Professional Development Session Follow Up
NESAC members provided feedback on the professional development session offered on Monday, July 27, 2009. The members found the course to be one of the more useful sessions the Forum has provided in a long time. They felt the session was relevant and interesting. Members would have liked to see the session include how tables and graphs can become ADA compliant for online publication.

FERPA Follow Up
In Tuesday's Joint Session, Paul Gammill (USED) spoke to Forum members about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). NESAC members were given the opportunity to discuss his presentation and identify any outstanding questions and follow up items.

  • The committee members saw Mr. Gammill as approachable and straightforward. His awareness of the controversy and problems with FERPA is refreshing.
  • The Forum's Education Privacy Working Group will update the current privacy-related publications and create a suite of tools to use based on the new FERPA guidance.
  • The question remains: Are there plans to rewrite FERPA? Regardless of any new guidance, committee members felt that the way the law is written makes it impossible to share data in several meaningful ways, such as from the state to users at the local level.

Mobility Rate Discussion
At the Winter 2009 Forum Meeting, a discussion topic was raised regarding mobility rate calculations. Members were interested in finding out more about how states and districts are handling the mobility issue. The NESAC chair led a discussion on the topic using information volunteered by several states. Many members found this to be a timely topic as many stakeholders are now asking for the rate.

  • In Massachusetts, a consortium of low performing districts asked the state to calculate the rate in an attempt to identify a reason for their poor performance. The Massachusetts DOE came up with a few preliminary calculations using snapshot data. The districts were less than happy with the initial findings because the mobility numbers were lower than expected.
  • ESP Solutions Group drafted a white paper on mobility. This is a great resource and is available online.
  • The Department of Defense Schools have used mobility rates for years to: 1) anticipate what circumstances schools will face; and 2) as baselines to help educators and administrators make decisions for the following school year. There is significant mobility in the DOD schools with some rates as high as 45%. This poses a real challenge for teachers.
  • States and districts are using a number of different calculations to calculate mobility rates.
  • The real question is how the data are being used.

Topics from the Floor

Lavan Dukes (Florida Department of Education) brought a topic regarding virtual schools and attendance data to the attention of the committee. The Florida legislature passed a virtual education bill that obligates full-time virtual education for all districts. By its definition, virtual instruction is any time, any place, any space, any pace. Attendance is not something that is measured and funding for virtual schools is based on completion. However, federal collections require attendance data. So, the question is: How do you take this model and convert to the 180 day school year model for purposes of federal reporting? This is an emerging issue for a number of states and districts as virtual education becomes more popular. Note that the Forum has developed a document about collecting virtual education data, titled the Forum Guide to Elementary/Secondary Virtual Education.

Policies, Programs and Implementation (PPI) Standing Committee

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Morning Session

Introductions and Agenda Review
PPI Chair James Haessly (Waukesha School District, WI) called the PPI committee to order. He then asked for members to introduce themselves and describe their experiences with the Forum.

IES Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) Grant Program Update
Tate Gould (NCES) reported on the SLDS grants. Twenty-seven states were given FY09 grants. There are now 54 SLDS grants in 42 states. A fourth set of grants totaling $245 million will be available through ARRA funds. The Request for Applications has been posted and applications are due in November. IES will open the annual grantee meeting in November to all states. They are also currently working on an on-line data share called LDS Share as an document library. The goal is to expand resource access to the wider community, not just existing grantees. IES will also be improving technical assistance to grantees.

PPI Discussion: The Forum's Role in Supporting National Data Standards Efforts
James Haessly (Waukesha School District, WI) led a discussion on the presentation at the Opening Session regarding what the Forum should be contributing to the national data standards conversation. The committee modified the mission statement and generated task ideas for the Forum as follows.

Proposed Mission Statement: "The NCES Forum, through its members and associate members, capitalizing on its decades of a cooperative system and its multiple publications, data definitions and best practice collections as well as ongoing working groups and task forces, commits to act as the logical system (or entity) for leading the continued definition, development, and maintenance of national education data standards. Toward that end, the group of SEA and LEA reps coupled with the other critical partners from/with the DOE, commits to work and educate in unison ethically and timely with (CCSSO, NGA, GATES, DQC, SHEEO, unions, etc.), to provide leadership on the following:

  • Continued refinement of data resources (e.g., exit codes, attendance data, course classification, privacy issues, virtual education, crime-discipline-violence, etc.).
  • Best practice recommendations and guides that assist state, local, and school based stakeholders in implementation (defining, collecting, and reporting) of quality data for school improvement.
  • Assist in the immediate completion of definitions and best practices for current ‘hot button' topics such as:
    • linking teachers and students;
    • PK-20 connections and communications;
    • P-workforce and early childhood linkages; and
    • others that may arise."

Forum activities identified included answering the following questions:

  • Who are the other data standardization groups and what are their roles in this movement? What are the current data standards that already exist? What is the Forum's role in this effort? Are there lines of responsibility? How do we promote the Forum and its role?
  • With respect to operationalizing best practices, how do we make some of this work at the state, local, and school level?
  • What are the valid end uses of P-20/workforce and teacher-student linkage data? How are these operationalized?
  • How can we get federal offices or other groups to ask our opinion BEFORE legislation or regulation is written or data collection items are created?
  • What are "data standards"?
  • How do we develop processes for engagement this late in the national data standards movement?
  • How can we increase the rate at which we update our data resources (e.g., Exit codes, etc)? What about other, smaller publications that can be completed within a shorter time frame and more cheaply? White papers?
  • What is our process for informing people about different organizations and issues for each state, LEA, school etc. (e.g., there is no State Higher Education Executive Officer in Michigan; early childhood is spread out in different state agencies; corrections institutes may or may not be covered; etc.)?

Crisis Data Management Task Force Update
Linda Rocks (Bossier Parish Schools, LA) provided an update on behalf of the Crisis Data Management Task Force. The group last met at the Winter 2009 Forum. The group's product focuses on the data items and management surrounding the displacement of students due to a crisis. The task force plans to have a draft for PPI review shortly after this Summer Meeting. The document will then go for a full Forum vote and formatting and should be available in print by the Fall.

EIMAC Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) Workgroup Update
Linda Rocks (Bossier Parish Schools, LA) provided an update on the EIMAC Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) Workgroup. The workgroup consists of LEA and SEA members that provide the USED with suggestions for the collection. Linda said the workgroup has made many suggestions and the Office of Civil Rights has responded positively and has made changes based on their comments. The collection will go out in the 2009-2010 school year. It will include some changes, but will use the same sample already selected. They are working on a new collection tool and are also migrating toward using EDFacts data when applicable.

Afternoon Session

Elementary/Middle School Course Classification Working Group Update
Carol Jones (Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information) provided the update for the new  Elementary/Middle School Course Classification Working Group. The group met on Sunday for the first time. MPR and CCSSO will be supporting this effort and develop recommendations for a coding structure. The group would like to use the same structure as the SCED codes if possible. They will report back to PPI at the Winter 2010 Meeting with more details, anticipated products, and a timeline for the project.  

PPI Discussion: SHEEO and P-20 Data Sharing
Hans L'Orange (State Higher Education Executive Officer, (SHEEO)) talked about the work that has been undertaken by the postsecondary community since the Winter 2009 Meeting. PPI Chair James Haessly (Waukesha School District, WI), Kathy Gosa (Kansas State Department of Education), and Tate Gould (NCES) spoke at a SHEEO meeting recently. There is an upcoming SHEEO policy conference in August.

Forum Professional Development Feedback
In general, PPI members had a very favorable view of the professional development session that occurred on Monday. There were some suggestions regarding the room layout and the length of the session, but most felt is was very informative. Some suggestions for future professional development topics included: FERPA, higher education, teacher-student connections, and managing messaging.

PPI Elections
PPI members nominated Vince Meyer (Wyoming Department of Education) as the chair and David Fringer (Council Bluffs Community School District, IA) as the vice chair. The nominations were seconded and approved unanimously.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Morning Session

FERPA Joint Session Follow-up
Paul Gammill (USED) provided PPI members with an opportunity to ask questions as a follow-up to his joint session presentation the previous afternoon. PPI members asked questions regarding direct control, following students over time, sharing test scores with multiple teachers, sharing data with non-education agencies, and penalties.

Education Privacy Working Group Update
Levette Williams (GA) updated PPI on the work of the Education Privacy Working Group. The group met for the first time on Sunday to discuss their task. The work will focus on updating the Forum's student privacy document (Forum Guide to Protecting the Privacy of Student Information: State and Local Education Agencies), then creating smaller subsidiary documents, and also possibly adding staff privacy issues. The final product may be one comprehensive website on all privacy topics organized by user type. The older Forum documents will be updated based on the new FERPA regulations as well as changes in the education climate. The group will meet in the late Fall and at the Winter 2010 Meeting and hope to be complete with their work by next summer.

Winter 2010 Planning
James Haessly (Waukesha School District, WI) opened a discussion on topics of interest for the Winter 2010 Forum Meeting. Topic suggestions included: student-teacher linking, P-20 in SLDS, value-added work, teacher performance measures and who is responsible for the measurements, and FERPA.

Technology (TECH) Standing Committee

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Morning Session

Welcome and Introductions
Chair Tom Purwin (Jersey City Public Schools, NJ) called the meeting to order.

Introductions and Agenda Review
Members and attendees introduced themselves and reviewed the TECH agenda. Chair Purwin reviewed the work TECH accomplished at the Winter 2009 Meeting in Seattle, WA. This included discussions and activities related to general session speakers, task orders, task force updates, data analysis and mining tools, Section 508 Accessibility, longitudinal data systems, and the use of data to improve learning.

Monday Professional Development: Table & Graph Design
Members agreed that the session by Stephen Few was especially relevant to our Forum. Presenting data in an appropriate manner is an important task in education agencies, but few staff are trained to do this seemingly simple, yet exceedingly specialized, job. Stephen was an engaging speaker with a lot of good information, but members felt like a whole day was a long time to sit and listen—even to such a skilled presenter. While dedicating an entire day to Steve Few worked out, perhaps a half-day session would be more appropriate in the future (for other speakers). TECH would like the Forum to consider whether it should develop a short publication designed especially for presenting education data in tables and graphs.

Forum's Role in Supporting National Data Standards Efforts
During the Opening Session, Lee Hoffman (NCES) and Kathy Gosa (Kansas State Department of Education) asked the Forum to consider its role in the development of national data standards. There appears to be several competing efforts underway to accomplish this objective, but TECH members feel that this work needs to be coordinated at the national level. Otherwise, there will surely be duplication of effort and competing standards. Questions raised included: Who is the authoritative body? Can it be the Forum? As one member said, "Who would be better to develop data standards than the Forum?" We have a very good reputation nationally, including at the U.S. Department of Education. If we leave the chore to others, states and districts may find themselves being told what to do by people who see education only from the national perspective. In a nutshell, the Forum is the only national body that is neutral and practical. We could plug into existing resources like the National Education Data Model (NEDM), the NCES Handbooks Online, SIFA, and PESC.

Several questions were raised, including:

  1. What are data standards? Are we talking about definitions, layouts, exchange protocols, collection and reporting standards? All of these?
  2. What standards currently exist? Where are the gaps? How does postsecondary education fit in? Does this information need to be shared with the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), which appears to be planning standards development as though nothing currently exists?

TECH believes we need to engage our partners at the national level. We need to actively do so or else these projects will advance without the benefit of our unique perspective and experience (as well as our neutrality and practicality). Having said this, we should view this as a cooperative rather than competitive effort. The Forum can be the "honest broker" in this discussion.

TECH identified the following content priorities for this work:

  1. Gap Analysis
  2. Early Childhood Data
  3. Instructional (Teacher) Use of Data
  4. Other Metrics from the Federal Stimulus RFAs

National Education Data Model (NEDM) Update
Hugh Walkup (USED) reported on the progress of the NEDM. As stated earlier, the Forum draft was a good start for this project, which is now growing to become more comprehensive and useful. It could eventually include data about pre-kindergarten, U.S. Department of Agriculture programs, and data collections at Health and Human Services. The NEDM is now moving from a descriptive model to a logical model with formal connections between entities, data elements, etc. This more explicit guidance will help vendors incorporate and implement NEDM standards.

One concern about the project stems from the earlier conversation about national standards. The NEDM only works if it is THE national model, rather than one type of model.

Decision Support Architecture Consortium (DSAC) Update
Tom Ogle (Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) reported that CCSSO has announced a new opportunity to help state education agencies align their data systems with local education agencies and schools. The Educational Alignment for Systemic Excellence (EASE) will be piloted in fall 2009 and open to all states in 2010.

Task Force and Working Group Updates

Data Ethics Task Force: Task force chair Tom Purwin (Jersey City Schools, NJ) reported that the draft is complete, has been approved by TECH, and will be sent to the Forum for a final approval vote later this summer.

Metadata Task Force: Task force chair Tom Ogle (Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) reported that the document has been released.

Longitudinal Data Systems Task Force: Task force chair Bruce Dacey (Delaware Department of Education) reported that the group continues to advance a draft of its product. The task force has completed several chapters and hopes to have a final product by the Winter 2010 Forum.

Section 508 Working Group: Task force chair Lee Rabbitt (Newport Public Schools, RI) reported that the group will develop a short document to promote awareness about this important topic. It will be developed on a short timeline (no more than 6-9 months).

TECH Election
Patsy Eiland (Alabama Department of Education) was elected chair and Lee Rabbitt (Newport Public Schools, RI) was chosen as vice chair for 2009-2010.

Afternoon Session

EIMAC Update and Its Implications
Patsy Eiland initiated a discussion about a topic that first arose in May 2009 at the Education Information Management Advisory Consortium (EIMAC) meeting sponsored by CCSSO. Chris Lohse (CCSSO) followed with a presentation about the proposed Learning Exchange and Resource Network (LEARN). TECH had a lively discussion about how this initiative fits into other work at the national level and how the Forum may or may not be involved.

TECH Professional Development: Data Release Policies and Procedures MS PowerPoint (1.4 MB)
Kathy Gosa (Kansas State Department of Education) and Bethann Canada (Virginia Department of Education) shared a presentation about data release policies and procedures. TECH members recognized that most of them face similar issues on this front and that they could share ideas and resources for dealing with this important topic.

TECH Discussion: How Can SEAs Help LEAs Collect & Report High Quality Data?
Tom Purwin (Jersey City Public Schools, NJ) and Patsy Eiland (Alabama Department of Education) led a discussion about how SEAs may be able to help LEAs collect and report high quality data. This discussion continues TECH's recent tradition of exchanging perspectives between SEA and LEA members.

SEA members generated several ideas. For example, they recognized that they can:

  • Try to align data and policies more carefully.
  • Provide LEAs with professional development about data quality.
  • Recognize when things are done well (not just when there are problems).

LEA members also created a list of ideas. For example, they suggested:

  • More two-way data flow between SEAs and LEAs (e.g., How can there be mandatory summative assessments without formative assessment data to help guide instruction?).
  • Increased SEA efforts to "listen" to LEAs in their own states (e.g., SEAs have to recognize that a sick child is at least temporarily more important than a data submission timeline if that child has an upset stomach in the entry clerk's office).
  • SEAs supplement LEA data tools (e.g., SEAs could develop and share web applications).
  • SEAs need to provide feedback about data quality (e.g., errors) in a timely manner.
  • SEAs can't change data demands too frequently.
  • SEAs should permit more flexibility in reporting (e.g., Allow big districts to submit multiple files simultaneously rather than facing the burden of one giant submission in the face of a deadline).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Morning Session

SIF Implementation at the Message Level PDF File (355 KB)
Larry Fruth and Laurie Collins (SIFA) shared a presentation about the technical details of sending messages using the SIF specifications. Members felt it was right on target for the TECH meeting. It was good to get beyond the conceptual discussion and into the details.

NCES Data Use Project MS PowerPoint (4.9 MB)
Kashka Kubzdela (NCES) and Sandy Eyster (ESSI) gave a presentation to TECH about the new NCES data use project.

IES Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) Grant Program Update

Tate Gould and Emily Anthony (NCES) shared an update on the SLDS program at the U.S. Department of Education. They also demonstrated the new SLDS resource sharing website. LDS Share is a dissemination venue for non-proprietary products and "lessons learned" from longitudinal data systems work conducted by state and local education agencies, including work funded by the SLDS Grant Program. LDS Share is intended to facilitate sharing and collaboration among education agencies and the education community in general, related to the design, development, implementation, use, and evaluation of longitudinal data systems. TECH will explore the possibility of using or adapting this webpage to share resources.

Winter 2010 Planning

  • TECH would like to hear more about the NCES Data Use Project announced by Kashka Kubzdela (NCES).
  • TECH will expect to hear more about the Forum's effort to identify its role in efforts to establish national data standards.
  • TECH wants to be kept up-to-date on the status and vision of the various federal education stimulus initiatives.

Chair Tom Purwin thanked the TECH Committee for its hard work at the meeting and welcomed Patsy Eiland (Alabama Department of Education) as the TECH chair for 2009-2010. Lee Rabbitt (Newport Public Schools, RI) will serve as the vice chair. Patsy reported that she expects to continue these important discussions with state and local education agency representatives over the next year.

Closing Session

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Overview and Agenda MS PowerPoint (131 KB)

NCES Update
Stuart Kerachsky, NCES Acting Commissioner, updated Forum members on recent business and coming plans at NCES and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Mr. Kerachsky told Forum members that agency leaders like themselves are at the center of the President's effort to improve education. The federal government is waiting to see what innovation and successes come from states and districts. Mr. Kerachsky highlighted the progress made by IES Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) grantee states, noting that most have implemented student and teacher identifier systems and can calculate the National Governors Association graduation rate.  Many have established data sharing with postsecondary, early education and even workforce agencies, while others have emerged as leaders in data quality training. He noted the recent release of the new SLDS grant RFA and outlined the seven capabilities that eligible states will have in place or must pursue with the funding, such as linkages of individual student data from early education through the workforce, broad interoperability, and the matching of individual teacher and student data. Mr. Kerachsky then discussed the ARRA funds and its four assurances along with the Race to the Top grants. Finally, the acting commissioner gave a tour through many other activities going on at NCES including:

  • The High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:2009) examines students' decisionmaking regarding postsecondary education. A field test has been completed and the full study will launch soon.
  • The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Class of 2010-11 (ECLS-K:2011) will begin a field test soon and will include a one-on-one reading assessment.
  • The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) was discussed:
  • International assessments and related issues were discussed:
  • The Condition of Education 2009 was released in May. Mr. Kerachsky reviewed some of the report's contents, highlighting areas where students are doing well and others where they are struggling. A small report will soon look at the performance of U.S. students compared to others around the world based on results from several international assessments.
  • Postsecondary issues were discussed:
    • QuickStats is NCES's new tool to help users create basic tables and charts using postsecondary data.
    • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) has a new website which serves as a source of data on colleges, universities, and technical and vocational postsecondary institutions in the United States.
    • The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) is a student aid study that analyzes data on the cost of postsecondary education and examines how students and families finance their education.
  • IES hosted the 2009 Research Conference in June. Attendees shared research findings over three days of sessions and via hundreds of poster presentations. Highlights included plenary presentations from Cecilia E. Rouse (Council of Economic Advisers, Princeton University) and Secretary Arne Duncan (USED).

Standing Committee Feedback: Forum and National Data Standards
Bruce Dacey presented some general feedback from Standing Committees on the issue of the Forum's role in supporting national data standards. Over the previous two days, Forum members had asserted that the Forum should be involved in this effort because the Forum is neutral, possesses both a unique set of expertise and wide range of perspectives, has experience with data standards, is practical in its approach, and has a long track record in developing data standards. In terms of the role we can take, members suggested that we commit to being a leader in this area and take a proactive role. Going forward, we should work collaboratively (not competitively) with other organizations involved, educate others and make sure that efforts build on rather than ignore or contradict the past and current work of the Forum and other standards developing bodies. The Forum may work to flesh out basic questions (e.g., What are "data standards"? What standards exist? Where are the gaps?), continue to update past publications based on gap analysis, continue to create best practice guides on implementation, and move immediately to address hot button issues. Over the next several weeks, the Steering Committee will review and consolidate Standing Committee ideas, refine our vision and plan of action, and provide feedback to the Forum.

Standing Committee Progress Reports

Task Force/Working Group Progress Reports

Recognition of Completed Projects and Forum Officers
Ghedam Bairu distributed plaques to the members of the Metadata task force and the 2008-09 Forum officers to recognize their contributions to the Forum.

Forum Election
The following slate of officers was elected to lead the Forum in 2009-2010:

Forum Chair: Linda Rocks, Bossier Parish Schools (LA)
Forum Vice Chair: Kathy Gosa, Kansas State Department of Education
Past Chair: Bruce Dacey, Delaware Department of Education
NESAC Chair: David Weinberger, Yonkers Public Schools (NY)
NESAC Vice Chair: Patricia Sullivan, Texas Education Agency
PPI Chair: Vince Meyer, Wyoming Department of Education
PPI Vice Chair: David Fringer, Council Bluffs Community School District (IA)
TECH Chair: Patsy Eiland, Alabama Department of Education
TECH Vice Chair: Lee Rabbitt, Newport Public Schools (RI)

Bruce Dacey thanked the Forum for the opportunity to serve as Chair in 2008-2009. Linda Rocks, the Chair for 2009-2010, pledged to keep up the good work of the Forum during her tenure.

Meeting Evaluations
Forum members shared their opinions on the Summer 2009 Forum Meeting by completing evaluations.

Steering Committee

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Welcome and Agenda Review
Chair Bruce Dacey (Delaware Department of Education) opened the Steering Committee meeting and welcomed participants to the 2009 Summer Forum Meeting.

Working Group/Task Force Updates
Sunday's working group and task force meetings were discussed.

  • The Section 508 Working Group has an outline for their product, which will provide basic guidance for designing (or revising) websites to improve accessibility and adhere to accessibility laws.
  • The Education Privacy Working Group will review the current Forum documents on privacy and determine the scope of the revisions needed based on recent FERPA guidance and changes in the education climate (e.g., Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security, etc.).
  • The Facilities Working Group will develop and consolidate national standards for describing buildings based on standards developed by various organizations including a focus on "green" schools.
  • The Elementary/Middle School Course Classification Working Group will create a taxonomy for assigning standard codes to elementary and middle school courses. All working groups plan on finishing their work by the summer of 2010.
  • The LDS task force continues to advance a draft of its product. The task force has completed several draft chapters, which have been posted on the group's webpage, and hopes to have a final product by the Winter 2010 Forum.

Professional Development Discussion
Steering Committee members discussed Monday's professional development workshop with Stephen Few. Members reported mostly positive feedback on the session, noting that they and others they spoke with found the workshop to be both engaging and informative, offering valuable and relevant information that could benefit many attendees in their every day work. However, some suggested that consolidation into a half-day session may have been preferable and thought, in the future, a less entertaining speaker may have trouble pulling off a full day session as well as Mr. Few was able to do. Others felt that the room setup was less than ideal and that a two-screen arrangement would have made it easier to follow the presentation from the back of the room (based on this suggestion, the room setup was changed for the Closing Session on Wednesday). Another member suggested moving the New Member Orientation session to Tuesday in the future so that all could have the option of attending the Monday professional development session.

Review of Tuesday's Events
Members thought that the presentation from Lee Hoffman (NCES) and Kathy Gosa (Kansas State Department of Education) was interesting and thought-provoking. They were also very pleased with Assistant Secretary Carmel Martin's (USED) presentation on stimulus funds and appreciated the time she took to address the Forum and answer questions.

Next, Standing Committee Chairs reported on the day's discussions:

  • NESAC Chair, Helene Bettencourt (Massachusetts Department of Elementary/Secondary Education) reviewed the committee's day, which included an update on the IES SLDS grant program; presentations on LDS lessons learned, new financial reporting elements, and CCSSO's Learning Exchange and Resource Network (LEARN); an election; a proposal for a new discipline task force; and a lengthy discussion of the Forum's role in supporting national data standards efforts. Some planned discussions had to be postponed due to the overwhelming interest in this latter issue.
  • PPI Chair, James Haessly (School District of Waukesha, WI) summarized the day's events which included updates on the IES SLDS grant program, Crisis Data Management and Elementary/Middle School Course Classification working groups, and EIMAC Civil Rights Data Collection Workgroup; discussions about the professional development workshop, and P-20 data sharing with SHEEO; and an election.
  • TECH Chair, Tom Purwin (Jersey City Public Schools, NJ) reported that the committee reflected on the professional development workshop; had a lively discussion about the Forum's role in national data standards efforts; heard updates on the National Education Data Model, the Decision Support Architecture Consortium, and task force and working group progress; and held an election.

Renee Rowland reported on the SEA Brownbag Lunch with the Contracts Office. Participants seemed to find the session useful and offered positive feedback.

Steering Committee members thought that Paul Gammill brought a new and refreshing perspective to the FERPA discussion. Although his presentation offered little in the way of new information, they looked forward to future interpretations or clarifications of FERPA that are reportedly in the works.

New 2009-10 Officers

Chair: Linda Rocks, Bossier Parish Schools (LA)
Vice Chair: Kathy Gosa, Kansas State Department of Education
Past Chair: Bruce Dacey, Delaware Department of Education
NESAC Chair: David Weinberger, Yonkers Public Schools (NY)
NESAC Vice Chair: Patricia Sullivan, Texas Education Agency
PPI Chair: Vince Meyer, Wyoming Department of Education
PPI Vice Chair: David Fringer, Council Bluffs Community School District (IA)
TECH Chair: Patsy Eiland, Alabama Department of Education
TECH Vice Chair: Lee Rabbitt, Newport Public Schools (RI)

Forum's Role in Supporting National Data Standards Efforts

All Standing Committees focused heavily on the issue of the Forum's role in supporting national data standards efforts. The three committees had lively discussions on the topic and compiled extensive notes (NESAC notes, PPI notes, TECH notes). TECH and PPI drafted vision statements and lists of action steps. Members agreed that main ideas from Standing Committee on this issue should be reported back during the Closing Session. Furthermore, they felt strongly that conversations to refine our vision and plan action steps should resume shortly after this Summer Meeting.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Welcome to New Steering Committee Members
New Forum Chair Linda Rocks (Bossier Parish Public Schools, LA) welcomed new Steering Committee members and pledged to be receptive to Forum members' ideas over the coming year. Linda reviewed how the committee operates, and explained how we communicate via periodic conference calls.

Review of Wednesday's Events and General Meeting Discussion
Members thought that NCES Acting Commissioner Kerachsky's presentation was informative and well-received. They expressed appreciation for the time he had taken to address the Forum.

The report to the Forum about our role in the national data standards conversation went well. Members reinforced the need to continue this work in the near future.

PowerPoint presentations used by speakers in the general session and standing committees will be posted to the Forum website with the meeting notes. Carmel Martin's (USED) presentation will be posted as soon as possible and questions from the Q&A session following her presentation will be submitted to her office.

Winter 2010 Forum
The Winter 2010 Forum meeting will be held in Phoenix, Arizona on March 1-2, 2010 and followed by the Annual MIS Conference. Note that this is one week later than we usually meet (i.e., it is not the last full week of February). Planning for this meeting will be conducted over the coming months.

Next Conference Call
The next Steering Committee conference call is scheduled for Friday, August 21, 2009 at 1 pm EST. This call will focus on meeting evaluations. Another call, which will be scheduled shortly after, will concentrate on the Forum's role in supporting national data standards.


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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.