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Removing Technical and Regulatory Barriers

Two types of challenges to realizing the vision of sharing data across systems are technical and regulatory. On the technical front, multiple student data systems, the lack of common standards for data formats, and system interoperability pose formidable barriers to the development of multi-level assessment systems.

For example, student and program data today are collected at various levels and in various grain sizes to address different needs in the educational system. State data systems generally provide macro solutions, institution-level performance management systems are micro solutions, and student data generated by embedded assessment are nano solutions. Providing meaningful, actionable information that is collected across multiple systems will require building agreement on the technical format for sharing data.

On the regulatory front, regulations such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) serve the very important purpose of protecting the rights of individuals but also can present barriers to data sharing and the improvement of education through research. Many of the barriers to research and data sharing posed by FERPA in its original form were reduced or eliminated through a 2008 revision of the act. Still, varying interpretations of FERPA requirements and differences in district and state policies have made data sharing a complex, time-consuming, and expensive process.

Reducing the technical and regulatory barriers to data aggregation and sharing would facilitate efficient use of data that are already being collected to make judgments about students’ learning progress and the effectiveness of education programs.

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