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The Forum Voice: Fall 2009 (Volume 12, No. 2)


Editorial Board
Letter from Chair
Welcome New Members
New Resources
Summer 2009 Meeting Recap
Common Data Standards Initiative
Forum Task Force and Working Group Updates
Upcoming Events
2009-10 Forum Officers
Newsletter Information
Links to Past Issues of the Forum Voice

Editorial Board

Kathy Gosa, Kansas State Department of Education
Patricia Sullivan, Texas Education Agency
David Fringer, Council Bluffs Community School District (IA)
Lee Rabbitt, Newport Public Schools (RI)
Ghedam Bairu, NCES

Letter from Chair

While I have found myself somewhat reluctant to accept previous leadership roles within the Forum, accepting the position of Forum Chair was a much easier choice for me. I have gained so much experience along the way, and my confidence is boosted because of support from the fabulous NCES staff and Steering Committee. I am honored to be in this position and look forward to leading us into an exciting new year. Going forward, I will continue to rely on my best asset – a strong calling to serve. My primary agenda is to continue to provide an environment where you can share expert opinions, launch new ideas, and learn from others.

The backbone of the Forum is our diverse membership, which has successfully collaborated time after time to produce high quality products for the educational data community. With the completion of every Forum project, one or more initiatives takes its place to further our working body's mission: to develop and recommend strategies for building quality education data systems that will support local, state, and federal efforts to improve elementary and secondary education throughout the United States. The Forum website is a great source to review completed works or to check on the status of our current projects. I encourage you to visit the site periodically and to share this collective resource with others in your district or state.

And now we are rolling into a stimulating new era with two simple words driving the train: data usage. Our fundamental goals of providing timely, quality, and comparable data are being considered as "must-haves" at the highest of levels. And, in light of our proven track record in this area, representatives from the Forum have been asked to be contributors to the national Common Data Standards effort. I look forward to sharing this group's initial work at our next meeting in March, and I fully expect some lively discussions. See you in warm and sunny Phoenix!

-Linda Rocks, Bossier Parish Schools (LA)


Welcome New Members

At this year's Summer Meeting, the Forum welcomed twenty-one new members. We look forward to working with them and seeing them again at the Winter 2010 Forum Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. The new members include:

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)


New Resources

checkmark icon Metadata Guide Metadata Guide—The Forum Guide to Metadata: The Meaning Behind Education Data was released in July 2009. The document offers best practice concepts, definitions, implementation strategies, and templates/tools for an audience of data, technology, program, policymaking, and administrative staff in state and local education agencies. The main objectives of this guide are to enhance this audience's awareness and understanding of metadata, to improve the quality of the data in the systems they maintain, and ultimately, to empower people to more effectively use data as information. To accomplish this, the publication explains what metadata are; why metadata are critical to the development of sound education data systems; what components comprise a metadata system; what value metadata bring to data management and use; and how to implement and use a metadata system in an education organization.
checkmark icon Handbooks Online Handbooks Online Version 7.0—A new version of the NCES Handbooks Online is now available to help education agencies and institutions collect uniform and comparable data. Version 7.0, which reflects changes made during the latest annual revision of the Handbooks, includes new and revised data elements and options. This version contains new attendance codes from the Forum publication on the topic, AYP elements, a highly-qualified teacher indicator, assessment item elements, and staffing categories. Additionally, option numbers have been reduced from six to five digits, with the removal of the leading zero.


Summer 2009 Meeting Recap


The Summer 2009 Forum Meeting took place in Bethesda, Maryland from July 27-29. Stephen Few of Perceptual Edge welcomed the Forum on Monday with a professional development session on effective graphical presentation of data. Tuesday morning opened with an address from Carmel Martin, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development (USED), on the Department's visions and initiatives related to programs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Next, Lee Hoffman, NCES, and Kathy Gosa, Kansas State Department of Education, presented to the Forum about the increasing momentum around common data standards and challenged members to articulate the Forum's role in this national movement—a topic that sparked lengthy and lively discussions in Standing Committee meetings. Later in the day, Paul Gammill of the Family Policy Compliance Office provided the Forum with an overview of current FERPA regulations and took questions about the privacy law and efforts to further clarify the regulations. Tom Purwin, Jersey City Public Schools (NJ) and Stacey Murdock Vermont Department of Education paid tribute to Steve Metcalf, a former LEA member from Montpelier School District (VT). Finally, many Forum members attended a brownbag lunch with the USED Contracts Office. On Wednesday morning, Stuart Kerachsky, Acting NCES Commissioner, reviewed some of the Center's recent activities and many accomplishments. The meeting closed with a Forum election in which Chair Bruce Dacey, Delaware Department of Education, and Standing Committee Chairs passed the reins to a new slate of officers led by Linda Rocks, Bossier Parish Schools (LA). Detailed meeting notes—including joint sessions, Standing Committee and Steering Committee meetings, and presentations—are now available.


Common Data Standards Initiative

In recent months, the development of common data standards has emerged as an important topic on the national stage, with numerous organizations investigating the issue and beginning work to develop standards. For data standards to be "common," they must 1) have uniform definitions, code sets, and technical specifications, and 2) be widely adopted and strictly adhered to by education agencies. After months of discussion, a three-pronged approach to standards development has emerged, focusing on: technical standards, communications, and adoption. The Department of Education, under the direction of Nancy Smith at NCES, will lead the technical effort by convening representatives from a variety of organizations—including the Forum—to work quickly, yet carefully, to compile and refine a set of core data standards. Working in concert with NCES, several other organizations— including CCSSO, SHEEO, SIFA, PESC, DQC and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—will bring their considerable expertise to the development of a core subset of common data standards. The Data Quality Campaign, with funding from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, will build understanding and political support for the concept of common data standards. Plans are in place for CCSSO and SHEEO, with support from the Gates Foundation, to lead the communications and adoption efforts of the common data standards agreed upon by the technical working group.

From early on, local-level buy-in from school districts and from state education agencies, the entities that will ultimately implement data standards, has been acknowledged as critical to the effort's success. Accordingly, numerous Forum representatives from states and districts have been asked to serve on NCES's new Technical Working Group on data standards, which will convene over the coming months to develop the standards. Working group goals will be to:

  • define the project scope;
  • define the benefits of having common data standards;
  • identify questions to be answered and metrics to be measured;
  • find out who's using current standards (e.g., NCES Handbooks) and why others are not;
  • identify core data elements and either modify existing or craft new definitions when necessary; and
  • define technical specifications.

Over the next year, the group's work will be shared with the full Forum.  First, an initial draft set of elements and definitions will be provided for feedback at the Winter 2010 Forum/MIS Conference. At the Summer 2010 Forum/STATS-DC Conference, the final data standards will be shared upon the project's completion.


Forum Task Force and Working Group Updates

checkmark icon Crime, Violence, and Discipline Working Group—The Crime, Violence, and Discipline Working Group was formed at the Summer 2009 Forum and met for the first time in October. Sparked by interest from USED in standardizing this area of data, the group's charge is to update the 2002 Forum document Safety in Numbers: Collecting and Using Crime, Violence, and Discipline Incident Data to Make a Difference in Schools to help establish a consistent body of terms and definitions in the field.
checkmark icon Crisis Data Management Task Force—The Crisis Data Management Task Force has recently released a draft document for Forum approval. The document is intended to aid elementary and secondary education agencies in the establishment of policies and procedures for collecting and managing education data before, during, and after a crisis. It will present a collection of data items useful in situations in which an agency is impacted either directly or indirectly (e.g., only receiving displaced students) by a disaster. The finished publication is expected by the Winter 2010 Forum.
checkmark icon Data Ethics Task Force—The Data Ethics Task Force recently received Forum approval for its Code of Ethics. The Code is intended for a broad range of stakeholders in the education data community and will address ethical issues focused on the management and use of education data, with particular emphasis on individually identifiable student and staff data. Supporting text will be specific enough to make ethical principles understandable and actionable for staff in an education organization.  The final product will be released later this calendar year.
checkmark icon Education Privacy—The Education Privacy Working Group first met at the Summer 2009 Forum. The group will review the current Forum documents on privacy and determine the scope of the revisions needed based on recent FERPA guidance and other changes in the education climate (e.g., Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security, etc.). The group will work on a single revised privacy product that will replace all current related documents. A webinar was held in September and the group will meet again this winter before gathering in Phoenix at the Winter Forum.
checkmark icon Elementary/Middle School Course Classification Working Group—The Elementary/Middle School Course Classification Working Group met at the Summer 2009 Forum to begin their work to create a taxonomy for assigning standard codes to elementary and middle school courses. Similar to the Secondary School Course Classification System (SCED), this taxonomy is intended to make it easier for school districts and states to maintain longitudinal student records electronically.  It will also help them transmit course taking information among student information systems—from one school district to another, and from a school district to a state department of education. The group is currently working with a consultant to develop a proposed coding structure. The Working Group’s next meeting will be at the Winter 2010 Forum.
checkmark icon Longitudinal Data Systems Task Force—The Longitudinal Data Systems Task Force is currently developing Traveling Through Time: The Forum Guide to Longitudinal Data Systems to help state and local education agencies meet the many challenges involved in building robust LDSs, populating them with quality data, and using this new information to improve the educational system. With emphasis on the non-technical, business side of LDS development, this document explores a broad range of issues involved in establishing an LDS that will have lasting and far-reaching impact. The group has posted a partial draft document on its webpage and hopes to release the final product by the Winter 2010 Forum Meeting.
checkmark icon Section 508 Accessibility Working Group—The Section 508 Accessibility Working Group is beginning its work to develop a short document to increase awareness of Federal Section 508 regulations for public organizations that receive federal funds (including SEAs, LEAs, and schools).  Section 508 requires that electronic information be accessible to all people, including those with disabilities. The working group will also provide basic guidance for designing (or revising) websites to improve accessibility. This working group first met at the Summer 2009 Forum and then again in October. The Working Group will convene again at the Winter 2010 Forum.


Upcoming Events

Photo of Arizona  

Winter 2010 Forum Meeting
March 1-2, 2010 in Phoenix, AZ
Contact: Ghedam Bairu


2009–10 Forum Officers

Forum Chair: Linda Rocks, Bossier Parish Schools (LA)
Vice Chair:  Kathy Gosa, Kansas State Department of Education
Past Chair: Bruce Dacey, Delaware Department of Education
Staff:   Ghedam Bairu, NCES
NESAC Chair: David Weinberger, Yonkers Public Schools (NY)
Vice Chair:     Patricia Sullivan, Texas Education Agency
Staff: Renee Rowland, NCES
Consultant: Maureen Matthews, CCSSO
PPI Chair: Vince Meyer, Wyoming Department of Education
Vice Chair:    David Fringer, Council Bluffs Community School District (IA)
Staff:    Ghedam Bairu, NCES
Consultant: Beth Young, QIP
TECH Chair: Patsy Eiland, Alabama Department of Education
Vice Chair:   Lee Rabbitt, Newport Public Schools (RI)
Staff: Tate Gould, NCES
Consultant: Tom Szuba, QIP


Newsletter Information

The Forum Voice is released as an electronic publication. To subscribe, visit the NCES News Flash. To contact the Forum, e-mail: Ghedam Bairu , fax: (202) 502-7475, or write: NCES-Forum, 1990 K Street, NW, Room 9095, Washington, DC 20006-5651.

Links to Past Issues of the Forum Voice

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