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Forum Guide to Metadata
NFES 2009-805
July 2009

Appendix C. Metadata Standards and Registries

This appendix defines the concept of a metadata registry and includes descriptions of several well-known metadata registries and standards available online.

Metadata registries are centralized locations where metadata structures and definitions are stored and maintained, often online. The following is a brief description of several well-known metadata registries.

NCES Handbooks Online

One widely recognized data standard in the field of elementary and secondary education is the NCES Handbooks Online, which defines standard education terms for students, staff, schools, local education agencies, intermediate education agencies, and state education agencies. It is intended as a reference document for public and private education institutions and early childhood centers, as well as education researchers and other users of education data. This web-based tool allows users to view and download information about data elements via an electronic table of contents, a drill-down finder, element-name and first-letter searches, and advanced query options.

The SIF Implementation Specification

Another widely respected standard for education data is the SIF Implementation Specification. Developed by the Schools Interoperability Framework Association (SIFA), this is a set of rules and definitions that enable software programs from different vendors to share data without additional programming by local schools, districts, or states. SIFA's goal is to allow school administrators, teachers, and other school staff to have secure access to the most current and accurate education data available.

Additional Registries

Other sets of standards more specific to metadata systems include metadata registries. These are centralized locations where metadata structures and definitions are stored and maintained. Numerous nationally and internationally recognized metadata registries are available online, including

  • The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative is developing interoperable online metadata standards that support a broad range of purposes and business models.
  • The National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) is designed to develop, disseminate, and support enterprise-wide information exchange standards and processes that enable jurisdictions to effectively share critical information, and support the day-to-day operations of government agencies throughout the nation.
  • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) metadata registry consists of a hierarchy of data elements, value domains, data element concepts, conceptual domains, and classification schemes that address the semantics of data, the representation of data, and the registration of the descriptions of that data. (Note: Because "International Organization for Standardization" would have a different acronym in different languages, the organization decided that whatever the country or language, the short form of its name would always be ISO.)