Opinion
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School Improvement RFP of the Week (1): Design/Build a User Friendly Decision Support System for Nebraska

July 22, 2008 3 min read
RFPs identify business opportunities, but they are also a neglected primary source for research on k-12 policy and operations. From Monday’s issue of K-12Leads and Youth Service Markets Report.

Announcement:

Design, Develop, and Implement a Decision Support System (DSS) Due August 22 (Jul 17), Nebraska Department of Education

Their Description:
The State of Nebraska, Department of Education, is issuing this Request for Proposal... for the purpose of selecting a qualified Contractor to design, develop, and implement a decision support system (DSS)....

The passage of NCLB and its mandated reporting requirements has increased the communication burden for state officials. Multiple reporting and accountability business rules and the disaggregation of data for subpopulations within schools, districts, and the state have strained both human and fiscal resources. This situation has been particularly pronounced for states (e.g., Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Kansas) that did not operate a student information system prior to 2001.

The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) provides infrastructure support... to improve education throughout the state. One major infrastructure investment was the development of the recently piloted Nebraska Student and Staff Record System (NSSRS). This new student-level and staff, data management system assigns each public school student a unique identification number (IDN). This system generated IDN, along with other school and district identifying data elements, is used to link other data collected and imported into the Data Warehouse (DW).

The primary role of the Decision Support System (DSS) is to make information from the DW available to end-users. Data providers and end-users will be provided user-friendly access to information to answer their questions, including the ability to query data across multiple years....

The DSS must.... [B]e a continuous improvement process within an organization by which information is made available in order to support change efforts..... [D]evelop a process within the NDE and local school districts by which meaningful data are aggregated, analyzed, and reported to stakeholders.... [A]ssist in defining, measuring, analyzing, and improving data quality at all levels of the system through automation, resource allocation, and human capital development.... [A]llow end-users with a wide range of technical skills to (a) interface with the system, (b) participate in on-line training modules, and (c) access reference materials necessary to answer their questions....

Complicated, jargon laden information management tools have little pragmatic use if only a few, highly technical individuals are able to effectively use the system to guide decision-making.... Meaning, the DSS will not require the end-user to obtain specialized training to use the system....

Data quality and validation efforts must be robust enough to allow the DSS outputs to be accurate and timely. Automated reports and file extractions must be developed so end-users can shift their efforts on using data to develop courses of action (CoA), rather than entering data points into a federal report. The DSS must be flexible enough to adapt analytic tools so new questions and data requirements can be answered without burdening schools with additional data collections....

The DSS must also assist the NDE’s on-going activities to bring data together in the format and granular size required for federal and state reporting. Finally, DSS data sources must provide accurate information for use in instructional planning and student placement. The assumption is that data quality will dramatically improve when end-users are actively engaged in its use to accomplish everyday tasks. A high quality, end-user driven DSS will assist in strengthening the underlying data reported to the public about schools and districts.

My Thoughts: A pretty good statement of the problem. Solving it is the great challenge. Perhaps the scale of Nebraska’s is just right for proof of concept challenge.

K-12Leads and Youth Service Markets Report is a comprehensive weekly web-enabled report delivered by email on Monday. It covers grant and contract RFPs issued by every federal and state education and social services agency and every school district over the internet.

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