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The State of Interoperability and Privacy in the K12 Sector

October 15, 2021 2 min read

What could students achieve if their education data was made available in a way that empowered them to set and meet their own learning goals? What could educators achieve if they could leverage well-connected data systems delivering accurate, actionable, real-time performance information about their students’ learning progressions? How would the last 18 months look if we better understood what education technology worked for who and in what context?

Right now, answers to these questions can seem like moonshots. But actually, they are within our reach - through prioritizing and modernizing data ecosystems with the power of data interoperability.

How far are we away from this reality? To help answer these questions, Project Unicorn is excited to release our first annual State of the Sector report, which analyzes the current state of interoperability and privacy best practice implementation in the K12 sector. It also provides an overview of challenges and opportunities. This report, utilizing the results of their School System Data Survey, is designed to help Project Unicorn and the education technology community better understand current K12 school system capabilities and infrastructure for leveraging education data.

Interoperability can transform the daily life of educators as they view and use the information from multiple source systems—such as student grades, standardized test scores, attendance, discipline/behavior history, and IEP information—in a single, secure dashboard. By reducing complexities and cost and allowing users to toggle from an individual student record to a whole class, interoperability takes the fragments of data held on each platform and makes them easily accessible.

We need systems to work together to empower students and their families to have the best opportunity for success throughout their academic journeys. Through the Project Unicorn rubric, developed in 2018, we established a shared language for interoperability. We now have over 650 districts and 200 vendors working collaboratively to leverage the power of interoperability in their data ecosystems to ensure that data serves, informs, and enhances teaching and learning. With the State of the Sector report, we’ve made our first coalition-wide effort to collect and review data from the education sector at large.

The report represents an unprecedented collaboration with a coalition of 16 education organizations working to address the challenge of data interoperability in K12 education. Recognizing that the challenge of addressing data interoperability in the K12 sector was too complex for any one organization to manage, members of our coalition support and promote the use of data interoperability through a wide range of activities under the Project Unicorn banner. Coalition members include Access for Learning (A4L), Common Education Data Standards (CEDS), Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Council for Great City Schools (CGCS), Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), Common Sense Media, Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), Data Quality Campaign (DQC), Digital Promise, Ed-Fi, Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Getting Smart, InnovateEDU, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA).

Read the report via the link below and use the following free resources for helpful information for districts and vendors seeking to improve their data interoperability while prioritizing privacy and equity.

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Resources

  1. State of the Sector Report - Read the first annual State of the Sector report released by the Project Unicorn Team.
  2. Project Unicorn School Network Pledge - Pledge your commitment to implementing interoperability and join this community of like-minded school systems. Access customized support opportunities, conference scholarships, and much more! Check out the Pledge Signatory Benefits.
  3. What is Data Interoperability in Education? - From improved instruction to data quality and efficiency, interoperability can help schools, states, students, teachers, districts, and families in ways you may not even realize. Read this resource to understand what interoperability is and what it means for groups across the education spectrum, from students to edtech vendors to state teams. See how real classrooms and school teams across the country have used interoperability to help their schools be better.
  4. Because They Were Ready: Stories From the Field on K-12 Readiness during COVID-19 - Learn how districts around the country were able to leverage data interoperability to meet the education challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  5. Data Myths and Misconceptions: Thoughts from the Project Unicorn Technical Advisory Committee - When it comes to data interoperability, sometimes it’s hard to know what is fact and what is fiction. This resource tackles some of the most common myths and misconceptions about interoperability.