State of The States: Education’s 2022 State of Affairs

Maureen Wentworth

By Maureen Wentworth, manager of strategic partnerships, Ed-Fi.

Last year flew by in the blink of an eye. We had some things to get excited about like unprecedented federal funding, tiptoeing back into offices, and limited in person convenings. We also faced some challenges and anxieties . . . like unprecedented federal funding, tiptoeing back into offices, and limited in person convenings.

With 2022 off to an eerily familiar start in some ways, we find ourselves better positioned to take on the challenges ahead. As a community, we’ve responded in big and small ways to the unprecedented need for data and technology to meet the needs of our students and educators.

We’ve identified three prevailing themes that state education agencies should keep in mind while mapping out priorities in this new year.

The urgency to modernize our data systems is again on display in 2022.

Over the course of the last year, about $190 billion in federal support was allocated through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds and to be spent within the next two to three years. The Data Quality Campaign reports that “over half of all states’ ESSER plans proposed using these funds to strengthen data systems or promote effective data use “and 29 state plans describe state efforts to create new education data systems or modernize existing ones.”

We have seen firsthand the commitment to systems modernization in the strength and growth of the Ed-Fi Community. The year 2021 saw new projects and pilots launching in eleven states, and seven statewide implementations leading the way to new use cases and expanded opportunities for connected data.

In 2022, states will continue to push the Ed-Fi data model to support efforts in early childhood education, graduation pathways, educator preparation, and expanded analytics capabilities. The SEA Modernization Starter Kit, will help jump start efforts for states looking to implement real time data collection while leveraging the Ed-Fi Data Model and open-source technology tools that support students across their states.

Understanding student attendance and student modality will continue to be a priority for states and districts.

With the Omicron surge taking hold as we start 2022, we are reminded that understanding where students are learning and if they are attending in that modality is vital. Last year, states collaborated to make decisions around the collection of student modality and attendance to support virtual and hybrid learning models. Six states put those efforts into production allowing for real time data to answer questions around school reopening.

When schools must switch to virtual learning, districts need high quality data to know the device and internet access of their students. In 2021 five states put into production the collection of digital equity data elements allowing for real time data to help districts understand the reality students are experiencing when trying to engage in learning remotely. It also allows for district and state leaders to direct supports and funding in ways that ensure equitable access to learning for all students.

The health and well being of our students and staff is more important than ever before.

While data itself cannot solve every issue, the way we leverage modern data systems and technology can expand capacity by lightening the load of data entry to help school as well as district staff direct resources in ways that maximize impact.

School district staff can spend inordinate amounts of time entering and verifying immunization records for student registration. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction heard this challenge and acted to develop a direct API integration that allows the secure pass through of immunization records from the public health system. Opting into this service allows districts to free up the time of their school nurses and registrars to support other vital student health efforts.

Maximizing impact requires that we understand high risk groups so that we can provide the appropriate services. We saw this play out early in the pandemic with the distribution of P-EBT cards where Arizona was quickly able to leverage their real time, high quality data collection to identify the eligible students and provide services without excess paper work or hoops to jump through.

Serving migrant students has often been a challenge for districts and states as data often resides in a separate and disconnected system. Wisconsin addressed this issue, by automating the integration process and collecting the data directly from MIS 2000. This allows district users to view current eligible migrant students in real time and provide they services need.

The pandemic exacerbated many challenges we have around mental health and wellbeing. While connected, real-time data cannot solve every challenge, the fact remains that we cannot effectively begin to formulate solutions without relying on connected, real-time data to drive innovation.

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