91001 Requirement 3a for P20 Data Committee

Subject: Suggestions for Addressing the Critical Issue of P-20 Data Driven Decision Support


The critical foundation to Arizona’s P-12 (was K-12, now PreK-12 => P-12) education future is the rapid completion of, and bringing to full operation, the P-12 data driven decision support system. This paradigm shift is the major change of creation, storage, transmission, communication and use of data. This transition is from analog means of verbal, white board and paper to digital means of audio, computer screens and data bases.

There are two separate but linked components to this data support system: student learning and administrative. These aspects have been addressed quite differently within the total ecosystems of Arizona P-12 education (micro, meso, exo, macro, and chrono)[1].

1. The Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) has being under development for 15 years. The creation of this summative assessment[2] based system has made significant progress over the pass several years and is becoming operational. Within the next few years the full implementation of this powerful tool will support administrative decision makers in school, district, state, governance and community. Approximately 10,000 Arizona administrators are expected to use this system on a daily to weekly basis.

2. The Teacher Student Learning Data System (TSLDS) (to coin an acronym) has had little attention over the past 15 years. This real-time formative assessment[3] data driven decision support system is needed to support the learning interrelationship of the student and teacher. Real time formative assessment is tied closely to or integrated into the curriculum. Effective digital curriculum includes automated formative assessment aspects that provide feed back, coaching, guidance and scaffolding to the student during the learning process. For problem sets this may be a simple right-or-wrong as the answer is input by the student. Hints or direction may be provided. An artificial intelligence (AI) system may shift the student to relearning a fundamental concept before readdressing the more complex solution. A different AI system may assess all aspects of an essay and support a redrafting minutes –not days – later. Teachers are provided with real time assessment of each student’s challenges and successes and can provide effective and meaningful individualized support. Approximately 60,000 teachers and one million students are expected to use this system on a minute to hour basis.

[1] Microsystem—the student’s family, school, peers; Mesosystem—two or more linked microsystems such as home and school; Exosystem—indirect outside forces-school boards, state standards, parents work conditions; Macrosystem—cultural beliefs, values, customs; Chronosystem—student is influenced by different systems at different times.

[2] Summative assessment—end of course tests, summing up work of student and links to demographic – operational data.

[3] Formative assessment—real-time and supports the student form the retained learning.

Race to the Top (RTTT) Data System Proposal

There is an opportunity that Arizona can secure data system funding in the range of $15 to $20 million from the federal government’s RTTT stimulus fund. This would be enable the SLDS to be completed and brought to full operation in about three years. The proposal must address four requirements:

(1) Implementation of all 12 data elements specified by the America Competes Act.

(2) A high-quality plan to ensure key stakeholders get access to and use state data.

  • Key stakeholders include parents, students, teachers, principals, LEA leaders, community members, unions, researchers, policymakers, and others.

(3a) Plan to increase educators’ use of data-based tools to drive instruction.

  • These “instructional improvement systems” include instructional planning, formative or interim assessments, rapid-time reporting, interventions and other actions

(3b) Plan to support researchers with data from longitudinal and instructional improvement systems so they can evaluate what works

Timing is critical for this proposal. The P-20 Coordinating Council (P-20 CC), Deb Duvall of the governor’s office and Arizona Department of Education have made this a leading priority. Boston Consulting Group has been engaged to assist. The P-20 CC created a SLDS Task Force whose first task is to support creation of a winning proposal. Cathleen Barton, Intel’s US Education specialist, heads up this task force. The proposal is due in early December, 2009.

Requirements (1) and (2) are mostly addressed within the history, current operations and long range plans of ADE’s SLDS and district level administrative data operations.

Requirement (3a) has not been well addressed over the past decades, and Arizona does not currently have many strong TSDLS’s in place – nor active plans and funding in place for comprehensive implementation.

Requirement (3b) will be readily addressed within the large and active educational research systems of our universities with their phalanxes of masters and doctoral students within every school district. Arizona has national class educational research operations like the Applied Learning Technology ^ Institute, the Fulton Institute and others throughout the state university system.

Reaching across all requirements is the ASU based and ADE funded Integrated Data to Enhance Arizona Learning (IDEAL) portal system for online teacher education and training and digital curriculum delivery. It has developed over the past ten years into a national model for a statewide P-12 data-information delivery network.

Statewide Longitudinal Data System (Requirements 1 ands 2)

SLDS is in the rapid growth phase of its forty-five year “S” shaped innovation cycle started in the 1970’s as school districts installed DEC, Wang, GE and other minicomputers in their back offices. This innovation is now accelerating toward maturity. The broadband infrastructure, data and computer systems are mostly in place for the teachers, administrators and staff who will be using the system. There is much yet to be done to provide training and to implement unique decision support systems to assure effective use these systems. Large districts have implemented their own sophisticated data systems over the decades. Small and remote schools and districts will need individualized support do to lack of expert staff in this area, and less sophisticated current systems. Much work remains to be done to integrate these systems into the requirements of SLDS. There seems to be strong support from leadership and staff at all levels to complete this task and start reaping the benefits. Fortunately for SLDS, work processes using green sheets for accounting, type writers for documents and file cabinets for storage have not changed significantly. Digital data systems have readily automated these relatively simple manual and intellectual tasks. The teacher-student learning process is radically more complex and difficult.

Teacher-Student Data Learning System (Requirement 3a)

TSDLS is at the beginning of the ramp of its fifty year innovation adoption cycle started in the late 1970’s with Apple, PET and TRS 80 micro-computer labs. This low cost, out-of-classroom experiment has not been successful in its charge to increase academic achievement. A few computers in the back of the class and a teacher computer plus projector have been the next step forward. But transformation to an elearning system is the only mechanism where research shows significant academic performance improvement. This human-technology integrated system includes:

Individual computer interfaces with 99% uptime technical support level;

Ten-fold increase in educator training and education for practice transformation to elearning;

Broadband Internet connectivity;

Individualized student learning pace and funding mechanism;

Digital curriculum that is unique and effective for each of the 200 semester courses offered in P-12 education;

And only then will “formative or interim assessment with rapid-time reporting” integrated with digital curriculum and teacher practice transformation have the effects that the Obama administration is expecting from RTTT funding.

Proposal Strategy

Here lies the elephant in the room. It will be a challenge to write a winning RTTT proposal for requirement (3a) without assuming that the elearning transformation system is to be implemented during the next three years. Unfortunately this prescribed statewide elearning system is currently only about 15% implemented. There are no plans backed with the $2 billion in net funding needed ($2000 per student, over ten years, when cost savings are factored in.) to accelerate this implementation. This funding is a one-time capital investment spread over ten years.  Arizona is struggling to keep the current implementation of K-12 education from sliding backward. The good news is that no other state has stepped up to elearning implementation any better than Arizona.

A proposal strategy might be to develop a unique message of how Arizona has had a long history of design and partial implementation of this P-12 elearning system design and has learned the challenges. Then build on an 8 year implementation plan that will have at its center the (3a) funding. This funding would be used to study the limited research and emerging practices of teacher-student data real-time systems. Then a startup design would be made and implemented within current P-12 sparse elearning system. With basic improvement in place, elearning build out for our entire P-12 system can be addressed.

Two Arizona experts that may be available to assist in the proposal are Joseph O’Reilly and Rick Baker. Joe is serving on the Arizona eLearning Task Force (AZeLTF) and is a leader at Mesa Unified District in this area. Rick is Associate director of the ASU Applied Learning Technologies Institute (ALT^I) at Skysong.


I suggest that the SLDS Proposal Team call on two Arizona elearning organizations to provide support for Requirement (3a). One is the AZeLTF appointed, for ten years, by the legislature and governor to address this issue, and housed at ADE. Two years ago AZeLTF was ready to award a contract for a $3 million middle school math elearning research project when the legislature swept the funding. The other is eLearning Systems for Arizona Teachers and Students Inc. (eSATS) a 501(c)(3) non-profit task team with a 20 year history of addressing this issue through engineering design, human systems and advocacy lenses. Members of this task team completed a study on elearning research for Institute for Defense Analysis/Office of the Secretary of Defense in 2005.


Data are necessary but to not sufficient for innovation driven change. Intuition, knowledge, champions and zealous advocates are also part of the innovation process. Only when data supports the development of information which is then transformed into knowledge to support decisions for action will effective transformative effects on P-12 education be realized.


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