2005 NASCIO Award Submission Category: Digital Government: Government to Government

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1 2005 NASCIO Award Submission Category: Digital Government: Government to Government Project: Virginia s Educational Information Management System Agency: Virginia Department of Education Executive Summary Virginia s 1.2 million school children currently participate in over 2 million Standards of Learning (SOL) Assessments annually as a part of the state s implementation of the Board of Education s Regulations for Accrediting Public Schools and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Local educators, schools, and districts dedicate an estimated 241,000 hours per year just to fulfill the multiple reporting requirements associated with state and federally mandated assessments. This time estimate does not include progress towards closing achievement gaps among student groups, as also required by NCLB. To achieve these goals, educators need accurate data and effective monitoring of student progress throughout their school careers. To meet these high-priority needs and better support its school systems and students, the Virginia Department of Education has pioneered a technology-based student and school data management system that also functions as a data-driven decision making (D3M) system. Dubbed the Educational Information Management System (EIMS), this new web-based application streamlines multiple tasks and combines longitudinal student information with decision support tools, arming educators with robust capacity for data analysis and informed decision support. Its online portal: EIMS has been designed to protect student privacy, expedite completion of localities multiple reporting requirements, free educators from the burdens of data collection, support efforts to provide assistance to struggling students and schools, improve public access to educational results, and provide ample room to grow further assistive applications. In addition to these substantial benefits, EIMS is also predicted to save $64.5 million over a ten-year period. Today, thanks to EIMS, the challenge of meeting accountability reporting requirements is being replaced by opportunity for competitive advantage through use of strategic decision support to target educational efforts, allocate scarce resources, and provide timely assistance to students that need it most. Children s pictures in the EIMS portal header change to show them growing up, a visual reminder of the longitudinal nature of the system. Commonwealth of Virginia Educational Information Management System Page 1

2 Description of Project Reporting and accountability requirements are now estimated to require 241,000 Virginia educator hours annually. This significant time burden has made it more difficult for educators to provide academic achievement for Virginia s 1.2 million school children. In response to this growing problem, the Virginia Department of Education (DOE) launched a technology-based initiative, dubbed the Educational Information Management System (EIMS). The EIMS is a web-based application that streamlines multiple reporting tasks and combines longitudinal student information with decision support tools, arming educators with robust capacity for data analysis and informed decision making. In addition to freeing significant educator time to devote to appropriate educational initiatives, EIMS is projected to provide over $64 million in cost savings over a ten-year period. NCLB Requirements Illuminated Need The accountability requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) require states, divisions, and schools to close achievement gaps among students in various groups, including the disadvantaged, disabled, and/or minority student. It further mandates a structured reporting format that requires disaggregation of student data, annual assessment of students, and complex school ratings. While individual student assessment records were available for any given test, the lack of a permanent unique identifier has made it impossible to gauge the progress of any given student over time. Timely, high quality information that would support Virginia educators in monitoring and reporting the progress of students in these groups was not available from a single, authoritative source. Status Quo: Decentralized, Unverifiable, Expensive Currently, Virginia school divisions submit dozens of major reports throughout the year in order to comply with state and federal reporting requirements. An estimated 241,000 hours annually are spent at the school, division, and state level generating, reviewing, and verifying reports. Student information systems are historically decentralized; their selection, design, maintenance, and control resides at the local level. There was a lack of standardization across and within divisions, and at least seven major vendor packages were in use when the statewide EIMS project began. Multiple coding structures existed even within a given school division and vendor package, and crosswalks had to be developed when data moved from one system to another. No statewide student identifier existed. Over two million Standards of Learning (SOL) Assessments were administered to Virginia s 1.2 million students during the school year, a number projected to increase to more than 2.5 million in Schools must hand code detailed student demographic information on to a bubble form for each test taken, or pay a high price to have their forms pre-coded by the testing vendor ($0.26 per student per test). This coding system is antiquated, time-consuming, and fraught with errors. Solution Developed to Meet Business Needs Transformation of Virginia s Student Information Program was undertaken to standardize and simplify the complex status quo, in order to assist localities, achieve effective reporting of student information and expedite appropriate and needs-driven educational decision making statewide. Through creation of Virginia s Educational Information Management System (EIMS), the Department of Education now has a highly effective tool for meeting these business needs. Planners realized that the most important business requirement of such a system would be the ability to recognize and monitor individual students over time, while maintaining each individual s privacy and security. Therefore, the core of Virginia s EIMS program was a system to assign each student a unique Testing Identifier that is permanent, unduplicated, and ubiquitous. Commonwealth of Virginia Educational Information Management System Page 2

3 Major components specified for Virginia s EIMS 1. A Testing Identifier that will be used to match student assessment results with demographic and program participation information; 2. The ability to pre-identify students for SOL assessments; 3. Decision-support tools that will enable the Department of Education and school division staff members to make important instructional decisions using accurate and timely information; 4. A thorough training component to enhance educators decision making through the effective use of the new decision-support tools; 5. A reporting component to enable the Department of Education to gather appropriate data statewide and respond promptly to state and federal requests, including No Child Left Behind; 6. Data loaders that enable school divisions to extract data from their existing student information systems and load them into the EIMS database; 7. Secure transfer of student data to and from schools over the Internet, and 8. A growth plan including extended program participation components that may be added to Virginia s EIMS following implementation of the core system. EIMS was required to be consistent with the COVA Enterprise Architecture and the Governor s Strategic Plan for Technology and was developed to adhere to COVA Policies, Standards and Guidelines for information security. The system was also required to comply with state and federal requirements for handicap access, the Family Education and Right to Privacy Act (FERPA), the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and Virginia Guidelines for the Management of Student Records. Web-based Tool Provides Easy, Secure Access Completely web-based, EIMS is accessible to any authorized user with an Internet-connected computer and a web browser. Role-based security determines the level of data access granted to each user as well as the functions that can be performed within the system. Oracle Discoverer tools, configurable for limited or ad-hoc query access, are used to present results in tabular and graphic formats. Data may be downloaded in a number of standard formats, such as Microsoft Excel, for importing into other systems. Accessed via an Oracle portal, the EIMS provides links to other sources of educational data and informative resources for educational decision support. EIMS was developed through a partnership with Iowa-City based Pearson Educational Measurement and is housed on an AT&T server farm in Secaucus, New Jersey. The EIMS portal is available online at Using EIMS to compare the performance of students with disabilities to those without. Commonwealth of Virginia Educational Information Management System Page 3

4 Phased Implementation Virginia began implementation of EIMS by combining multiple collections of aggregate student counts into a single Student Record Collection conducted three times per year. In addition to eliminating a number of burdensome reporting requirements, the Student Record Collection established coding standards that were adopted by all school divisions. Systems and data stores that were once fragmented and isolated were combined into a single repository that met state and federal reporting needs as well as ad-hoc data analysis. The EIMS project began in earnest in February 2004 with a pilot that involved sixteen Virginia school divisions. The pilot divisions tested the basic functionality of the system assigning state testing identifiers and reporting student assessment information. The core system was modified in the summer of 2004 based on feedback from the pilot divisions. In September 2004, sixteen additional school divisions began participating in the EIMS project, submitting data and receiving state testing identifiers for their students. Fifty additional divisions began in November, and the final fifty school divisions began submitting data in January By March 31, 2005, all Virginia school divisions had received State Testing Identifiers for their students. Real Time Data Submission Piloted as Next Wave Improvement Use of a Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF) specification has been identified as a potential enhancement to EIMS. School divisions currently transmit data to EIMS in a batch mode using a tabdelimited ASCII file format. While significant economies in student-data reporting have been achieved through EIMS, transmission requires human intervention and is highly dependent on school capacity to create and transmit the data files in a timely manner. To accurately monitor the movement of students and eliminate human intervention, a real time approach was developed for EIMS data submissions. Virginia conducted a pilot test of the SIF specifications in Hanover County. The SIF specifications are agreed-upon XML objects that are passed from application to application using a publish and subscribe model. The pilot, conducted from August 2004 through April 2005, resulted in the successful integration of Hanover County s student information system with EIMS, as well as their library, cafeteria, and transportation systems. Further use of SIF Specifications is planned. Data Application Charted Implementation and enhancement of EIMS continue as a priority for Virginia s DOE. The State Testing Identifiers assigned through EIMS will be required for the first time on the end-of-school-year student record collection. This collection will be the basis for longitudinal analysis of retention, promotion, drop-out and completion information for every student currently enrolled in Virginia s schools. Beginning with the class of 2008, Virginia will be able to produce a true, on-time graduation rate. In addition, State Testing Identifiers will be required on student assessment records beginning in the school year. This will be the basis of a longitudinal student analysis capability for students in grades 3-12 participating in state assessments from that year forward. Room for Growth Future plans for Virginia s Student Information Program include improving EIMS reports to make them more meaningful. This includes expanding the program to include additional data on students with disabilities, developing the capacity to locally print identifying labels for state assessments, capturing course enrollment information, providing information to teacher preparation programs on how their graduates perform in the classroom, and developing a linkage to institutions of higher education via a standard electronic transcript to an SIF specification. Commonwealth of Virginia Educational Information Management System Page 4

5 Significance to the Improvement of the Operation of Government Virginia s EIMS, by implementing standardized student-based data collection and reporting, significantly improves governmental functions at both the state and local level. The first imperative was to meet the reporting requirements of NCLB and other state/federal mandates. Through its robust planning and development process, Virginia s EIMS system achieved much more. State Program Assists Localities, Students and Parents EIMS prepared the state Department of Education to proactively assist its localities, and therefore its 1.2 million students and their parents/caregivers. By providing an enterprise system to monitor students and complete comprehensive reports, EIMS allows DOE to provide timely information on student performance, assist schools in monitoring progress, and most importantly, communicate assessment results early enough to identify and take corrective action for schools and divisions in need of improvement, helping to close any achievement gaps. Tool Greatly Assists DOE Staff Efforts Virginia s EIMS will have a significant positive impact on the way the Department of Education (DOE) conducts its business. Specialists in the core academic areas will have timely information on which to base instructional assistance. Academic Reviewers will have access to a broad array of data on school performance that will enable them to tailor recommendations accordingly. Specialists in the area of Policy and Public Affairs will have access to data and analysis tools that will enable them to better answer constituent inquiries. Budget specialists will have timely and accurate information for forecasting and modeling. The consolidation of federal and state reporting requirements into an automated system significantly reduces the number of surveys, data collections, and ad-hoc databases currently developed by various specialists throughout the department. Professional instructional staffers will have more time to focus on improving academic achievement. Significant Public Access Enabled EIMS includes a significant customer service and parental involvement focus. By fostering data-driven decision-making (D3M), EIMS generates significant improvements in citizen access to service delivery. Development of standard data definitions and reporting formats allows Virginia s DOE to produce clear annual school, division and state report cards and to hold schools and divisions accountable for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), including participation in the SOL Assessments. These reports assist parents, citizens, school divisions, the media and the general public in monitoring student and school progress. Anticipated and actual gains in educational performance will be shared with a broad audience, and the self-service component allows parents and students to monitor progress towards graduation. Improved and informed decision making for citizens is further enabled. Benefits Realized by Service Recipients, Taxpayers, Agency or State Educational assessments and other student reports, while vital for effective analysis and planning, were becoming an increasingly heavy burden for educators. The Department of Education s immediate mandate, to meet the reporting requirements of NCLB, has been amply realized through Virginia s EIMS. More importantly, the system provides tools to simplify reporting, frees time for educators, and achieves cost efficiencies. Local school districts are already realizing the benefits of the EIMS system, through reduced and greatly simplified student information reporting tasks. By eliminating the costly and redundant effort of mapping and loading student data into various systems and consolidating various state and federal reporting requirements, school personnel can now focus more time on instruction. Virginia EIMS improves the Commonwealth of Virginia Educational Information Management System Page 5

6 quality of education for students by redirecting the time and resources of teachers, guidance counselors, clerical staff, and administrators (estimated to be 241,000 hours annually) away from paperwork and toward tasks that directly benefit students. Concurrently, the quality of student data has been greatly improved via standardization of format and vastly improved input methods. Individual student privacy has been amply protected while educational needs have become visible. Stakeholders can now access relevant information and rely on its accuracy, enabling effective planning and decision making. Virginia s DOE will continue to use these new and effective tools to improve the level of service they provide to schools, divisions and educators. EIMS provides timely, non-biased, data-based information. Data-driven student performance analysis identifies areas of need, fostering expansion of programs to improve reading and other academic performance and development of appropriate strategies to meet the needs of students and school systems. Today, thanks to EIMS, the challenge of meeting accountability reporting requirements is being replaced by opportunity for competitive advantage through use of strategic decision support to target educational efforts, allocate scarce resources, and provide timely assistance to students that need it most. Return on Investment, Short-term / Long-term Payback The Return on Investment (ROI) for Virginia s EIMS was estimated for two and ten years (the anticipated life of the investment). As expected, a negative ROI in the first two years of development reflects the short-term financial burden imposed during the transition from current systems to EIMS. Savings during this first two-year period are realized through elimination of reports. 2-year ROI Analysis: 2 year savings $4,600,000 2 year cost 6,900,000 Net Benefit -2,300,000 ROI Percent Beginning in , significant savings are realized through school division decision-support savings, as well as elimination of the cost of coding test forms. The 10-year ROI measures the status quo, handcoding, requiring 3 minutes per form, $20 per hour, and 2.5 million forms. 10-year ROI Analysis: 10 year savings $91,000, year cost 26,500, Net Benefit 64,500, ROI Percent The break-even point occurs in Year 5. Based on the Department of Education s experience with school division student information systems in Virginia, the EIMS project is expected to produce a net benefit of $64.5 million over the next 10 years. This includes an estimated 241,000 hours per year previously required to accomplish mandated reporting tasks. Commonwealth of Virginia Educational Information Management System Page 6

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