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The Forum Voice: Spring 2000 (Volume 3, No.1)


MIS 2000--Experiencing Education Technology in Arizona
NCES Releases the Student Data Handbook: 2000 Edition
Standing Committee News
Upcoming Events
1999-2000 Forum Officers
Newsletter Information
Links to Past Issues of the Voice

Editorial Board

Andy Rogers, Los Angeles (CA) Unified
Kelly Powell, Arizona SEA
Nick Stayrook, Fairbanks (AK) Schools
Raymond Yeagley, Rochester (NH) Schools
Ghedam Bairu, NCES

MIS 2000—Experiencing Education Technology in Arizona

The 13th annual Management Information Systems (MIS) Conference was held in Chandler, Arizona between February 28 and March 1, 2000. As is always the case, the conference was the perfect mix of hard work and good times. Among the more than fifty concurrent sessions offered were numerous presentations that were of particular interest to the Forum and its members, including The Future of CCD Data Collection Technologies, Collecting Data About Technology in Schools, and Collecting, Storing, Displaying, and Using Core LEA Data. A summary of the MIS sessions, including notes from several of the presentations, is posted on the NCES website at

A special Forum-sponsored preconference workshop about decision support systems (DSS) was held on Sunday afternoon. Forum member Kelly Powell of the Arizona Department of Education welcomed nearly 75 attendees to the four-hour session, stating that the afternoon's goal was for everyone "to walk out of the room with a richer understanding of the capabilities of a decision support system." The impressive list of speakers ensured that this goal was met. Workshop content converged from a broad overview intended to help identify key DSS issues to a more detailed discussion about designing and implementing decision support systems in state and local education agencies.

John Phillipo, CEO of the Center for Education Leadership and Technology (CELT), introduced the topic with the caveat that an organization should not even consider developing a decision support system unless it knows precisely which decisions are in need of "support". He also stressed that a DSS cannot be developed by a state and then simply forced upon districts and schools; rather, an effective decision support system must be built for the lowest common denominator, be they parents, teachers, or the general public. Phillipo also emphasized the tremendous value that can be derived from DSS if, like all technology, it is properly focused on the organization's core mission.

C.R. Oldham of the North Central Association Commission on Schools spoke next and emphasized the hardware and software components that constitute a DSS. While shying away from recommending specific processor speeds, he noted that a DSS isn't doing its job if it fails to provide requested information before the decision deadline. He also suggested that developers focus on creating a system that can grow with the inevitably increasing demands of its users. In fact, Oldham argued that since very few organizations have all the resources necessary for building a complete decision support system, it can make sense to develop a DSS one kernel at a time (based on priority) and then grow the system as resources allow.

The Forum's own Steve King then shared his experience developing and implementing a DSS at the Wyoming Department of Education, where he designed a system to meet the needs of three primary categories of users—casual browsers and the public, program staff, and power users/researchers—through the use of web accessible canned queries, static reports, and table generator tools. He reaffirmed the importance of meeting end-user needs or facing the risk of having a system that no one wants to use. King also explained Wyoming's system for coding data elements, noting that considerable attention must be given to "slowly changing dimensions" such as time. He maintained that if a system is intended to manage records over time, explicit elements for activation and expiration dates must also be maintained each time a file is updated.

Finally, David Krueger and his staff from the Tucson (AZ) Unified School District demonstrated an actual decision support system that is operated on a district-wide intranet. Krueger emphasized the importance of sound system security (because of the sensitive student level information maintained in the Tucson DSS). User passwords and user access area limitations were among the numerous security features demonstrated. Mr. Krueger illustrated system security by way of a role playing example-in the Tucson system, a teacher is authorized to access data about students in his or her class but is excluded from accessing information about other students, whereas a principal can access school-wide student data but not data about students in a different school. The Tucson Unified staff took great pride in demonstrating their user-friendly interface and shared a great deal of information about the decision-making processes they undertook while developing their system.

In addition to Kelly Powell and Steve King's participation in the afternoon's discussion, Forum members Andy Rogers of the Los Angeles Unified School District and Carol Hokenson of the Minnesota Department of Children, Families, and Learning moderated portions of the event and helped to recruit speakers. The session concluded with a brief discussion about the ongoing role the Forum might play in supporting special focus discussions such as the decision support system preconference workshop. The audience was unanimously in favor of the idea of the Forum organizing and presenting such in-depth sessions in the future.


NCES Releases the Student Data Handbook: 2000 Edition

After twelve months of collaboration among local, state, and federal staff, NCES released the Student Data Handbook for Elementary, Secondary, and Early Childhood Education: 2000 Edition at the 2000 MIS Conference in Arizona. The purpose of the document is to promote the maintenance of accurate and complete data about students by (1) providing a common language that can be used to describe information about students; (2) facilitating the collection of accurate, consistent, comparable, and complete data about students; (3) encouraging the maintenance of student records in an automated database; and (4) promoting the development of policies for safeguarding the confidentiality and ensuring the appropriate use of student data. The document is not intended to be a survey instrument and contains no data. It is, instead, intended for use as a reference document for those who collect, maintain, and use information about students -- particularly at the local level. Anticipated audiences include staff in public and private schools, school districts, early childhood centers, and other education institutions.

Revision of the 1994 document began in January 1999 with the creation of a working group of local, state, and federal staff who met to determine which data elements needed to be updated, deleted, or added to the compendium. The 2000 Edition represents the first phase in an ongoing effort to revise the Student Data Handbook for Elementary, Secondary, and Early Childhood Education each year in order to keep the popular document as up-to-date as possible. Suggestions for the next update (in 2001) are welcome and should be forwarded to Beth Young. The document is available for use and review on the NCES website at


Standing Committee News

National Education Statistics Agenda Committee (NESAC)

NESAC's School Facilities Data Task Force, chaired by Patti Bowles, and Core Finance Data Task Force, chaired by Linda Champion, reported much progress in their work. While the Facilities group continues development of a draft document, the Finance Data Elements Handbook and the revised Financial Accounting Handbook 2R2 are now in a holding pattern until the General Accounting Standards Board (GASB) issues its new standards. In the meantime, both working groups met with TD&C's Technology in Schools Task Force to examine potential areas of content overlap in their development efforts.

Recognizing the public's growing concern over violence in schools, NESAC voted to form a new task force on Crime, Violence and Discipline. One of the task force's early responsibilities will be to update the 1995 publication Recommendations from the Crime, Violence, and Discipline Task Force. Bill Smith and Annette Barwick will co-chair the group.

Beth Young (NCES) and Oona Chung (CCSSO) announced that a revised Student Data Handbook for Elementary, Secondary, and Early Childhood Education: 2000 Edition was being printed and would be released at the MIS conference in late February. NESAC applauded plans to update the handbook on an annual basis and voted to use the chapter on "Building a Student Record System" to create a separate, stand-alone, document. Arrangements were made for volunteers from PPI and NESAC to review the chapter and share formatting suggestions via email. NESAC will also support the NCES initiative to review and update of the Staff Data Handbook for Elementary, Secondary, and Early Childhood Education.

NESAC joined PPI in hosting a Race/Ethnicity "Question & Answer" Session with the Department of Education's Office of General Council, Office of Civil Rights, and NCES. SEA and LEA representatives expressed unanimous concern that the Office of Management and Budget has not yet determined which tabulations it will require to be reported from the new race/ethnicity codes. Participants stressed that states, districts, and schools would need a minimum lead-time of three full school years from the time the tabulation categories are announced until being expected to implement and report the new codes.

Finally, NESAC and TD&C met in joint session on the last day of the Forum to hear a presentation about the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund (TLCF) Online Collection. They were then treated to an overview of the NCES Common Core of Data (CCD) Longitudinal File Project by Sameena Salvucci of Synectics. The latter presentation focused on the challenges, decisions, and methodologies that influenced project development. A demonstration of the completed project is planned for the summer Data Conference.


Policies, Programs, and Implementation (PPI)

PPI opened its winter business by having a discussion with LeRoy Rooker from the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education on issues related to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Three main issues were addressed: 1) the destruction of student records; 2) the classification of free and reduced price lunch eligibility data (i.e., is it an education record or not?); and 3) data sharing. Regarding the first issue, Mr. Rooker advised that the only provision in FERPA that relates to the destruction of records is one stating that an educational agency or institution may not destroy education records if there are any outstanding requests to inspect or review the records in question. Otherwise, there is no prohibition on the destruction of records. He then informed the committee that under FERPA's broad definition of "education records," records relating to a student's eligibility status for the free and reduced price meal program are considered to be "education records." He added that the Family Policy Compliance Office has not officially held any discussions with the U.S. Department of Agriculture about this matter and had not formally issued any opinion as to whether there is another controlling federal statute involving these records. Finally, Mr. Rooker acknowledged that the growing demand to build massive databases for sharing information has led to legitimate concerns about confidentiality and privacy. Thus, the Family Policy Compliance Office is currently developing a document that will provide more definitive answers to questions about data sharing in the near future.

PPI also heard from U.S. Department of Education staff regarding the status of the racial/ethnic tabulations. The issue provoked a lively discussion which culminated in a PPI recommendation to the Steering Committee that the Forum prepare a letter to the Secretary of Education stating that state and local education agencies would require three years notice before implementing any new race/ethnicity data classification scheme.

Mary McCrory and Ghedam Bairu (NCES) reported that 13 states were awarded special task orders for FY2000. Beginning next year, all task order proposals will be submitted and reviewed over the Web. Finally, PPI received and approved a request from NESAC to form a Task Force on Crime, Violence, and Discipline. The goals of this task force will be to devise strategies for data collection on the topic, increase reliability and validity of the data, and change the central focus of this issue from the state to district level.


Technology, Dissemination & Communications (TD&C)

TD&C members learned of initiatives in Kansas, Iowa, Mississippi, and California to improve the timeliness, accuracy, and efficiency of education data collection and dissemination. Related to these commendable efforts is a customer service survey being prepared by NCES at the request of the Forum. This survey would help to identify state efforts that incorporate technology into education data collection and reporting. Lee Hoffman (NCES) told TD&C that preliminary results of this collection are expected for the Summer Forum Meeting.

On the working group front, the EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) Task Force reported that it is redefining its schedule and final deliverables for the Statistical Networking Application Project (SNAP). In order to maintain task force progress, members attending the MIS Conference planned to meet to further discuss various project development issues (which will then be reviewed online by the full task force). The Technology in Schools Task Force began an effort to coordinate the development of its final product with NESAC's Core Finance Data Task Force and Facilities Data Task Force. Because of obvious areas of overlap between the three topics, it is hoped that this coordination effort will minimize the redundancy in the task forces' impending publications. The Technology in Schools Task Force also announced that it would offer a presentation on project progress at the MIS conference. A final draft is anticipated by the 2001 Winter Forum Meeting. Finally, Nathan Slater, Chair of the Communication and Dissemination Subcommittee, reported that the group had met its objectives, finalized its products, and expected to officially disband after the July meeting.

Barbara Andrepont updated TD&C on her role as the Forum representative to a national committee that is developing the School Interoperability Framework (SIF) protocols and standards-an association she believes will eventually improve communication between the Forum and the software industry. Lee Hoffman then shared some thoughts on the need to identify common performance indicators and other data elements that might be of interest to states that are in the process of developing school district profiles.

Finally, because of the continued demand for the publication Technology @ Your Fingertips, TD&C recommended that the document be updated to reflect the ongoing changes occurring in the world of technology. It was decided that a small subcommittee would accept responsibility for reviewing and updating the document's content with the goal of continuing dissemination of the publication solely via the Web (so that users are able to download an up-to-date version at all times). The notion of using the Web to keep documents current in this manner was discussed for other Forum publications as well.


Upcoming Events

NCES Fellows Program * Washington, DC * May 8-12 * Mary McCrory
Summer Forum Meeting * Washington, DC * July 24-26, 2000 * Ghedam Bairu
Summer Data Conference: * Washington, DC * July 26-28, 2000 * Mary McCrory


1999-2000 Forum Officers

Forum Chair:  Dori Nielson, Montana SEA
Vice Chair:  Andy Rogers, Los Angeles (CA) Unified
Past Chair: Gordon Green, US Bureau of the Census
NCES Staff: 
Lee Hoffman
NESAC Chair: Patti High, Oklahoma SEA
Vice Chair: Kelly Powell, Arizona SEA
NCES Staff:
Beth Young
PPI Chair: Carol Hokenson, Minnesota SEA
Vice Chair: Nick Stayrook, Fairbanks (AK) Schools
NCES Staff :
Ghedam Bairu
TD&C Chair: Nancy Walker, West Virginia SEA
Vice Chair: Raymond Yeagley, Rochester (NH) Schools


Newsletter Information

The Forum Voice is released both as a paper document and an electronic publication, which is available at To subscribe to the electronic version, visit the NCES News Flash.

To contact the Forum, browse:, e-mail Ghedam Bairu, fax: (202) 502-7475, or write: NCES-Forum, 1990 K Street, NW, Room 9095, Washington, DC 20006-5651.

Please share all comments and questions at e-mail Ghedam Bairu.


Links to Past Issues of the 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.