California Educational Data Processing Association
The DataBus - Vol. 36, No. 5
August-September, 1996

SMART--Statewide Management of Automated Record Transfer

Records: School agencies collaborate with Nevada Department of Education to develop automated system for information exchange.

Russ Brawn, WestEd

As we in public education approach the end of this century, providing high-quality, on-time services, tools, and strategies that will support school reform requires that we increasingly draw upon technology to address complex educational issues. The collaborative efforts of Nevada's school districts and the Nevada Department of Education (NDE) in developing the Statewide Management of Automated Record Transfer (SMART) System Plan is evidence of both Nevada's recognition of this need, and determination to address it. As practitioners of K-12 information technologies, it is incumbent upon us to understand the need for better information for education decision-makers, and to lead our organizations' understanding of relevant, efficient systems and methodologies.

The Nevada legislature and governor have designated funding to begin building the technology infrastructure to support statewide automation and transfer of student records. Included in the appropriation are $1.814 million for school districts, to be used for student information systems (SIS) software, needed hardware, and local area networks for connectivity among student records users. These funds will support implementations of six pilot school districts, with the ultimate goal of extending SMART to each of Nevada's seventeen school districts - which are in California terms, one "unified" district for each of the seventeen counties comprising Nevada.

The funds provided to the districts are not sufficient, however, for wholesale replacement of the already significant investments school districts have made in systems for student record management. In fact, in many cases the student information systems in place are meeting most, if not all, of local information management needs, so there are no compelling needs to replace them. Key to the success of the Nevada SMART System will be the creation of an "open systems" solution that meets identified requirements, but allows for flexibility at the local level in selecting systems to meet day-to-day needs. Open systems are built upon the concept of "standards without standardization"--student data may be kept in the formats of disparate local student systems, and still be shared with the NDE and among local education agencies, in a commonly understood format. Existing local investment in hardware, software, and processes can be retained and leveraged to achieve cost effective solutions without comprising SMART System goals.

The same legislation made available additional funds to connect each of Nevada's schools to the Internet. The Nevada School Network (NSN) is being implemented through the combined efforts of the Department of Education and the University and Community College System of Nevada. SMART will utilize NSN to transport individual student record data from a central site for each district, to the Department of Education.

Specific features of the SMART - Phase I Project include:

SMART will leave Nevada with the functionality for sharing student records between districts, using the identical procedures for data mapping and cross-walking that will be done for statewide reporting. Effectively, this is an electronic transcript means of sharing of student records. Thus, incoming students' needs may be quickly appraised, reducing the time needed to coordinate appropriate curriculum and services. NDE will also be able to share information back to districts that can aid them in assessing their schools and students compared to others across the state. A system that provides information sharing in both directions will facilitate greater communication and collaboration between the Department of Education and districts.

One indication of the commitment that Nevada has made to communication and collaboration is the formation of the SMART Advisory Committee. Representatives of the various stake-holder interests unanimously accepted the invitation extended by Mary Peterson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, to participate in the group. Included are members of the State Board of Education, members of both Nevada legislative branches, private industry, the Governor's Budget Division, the Nevada Parent Teachers Association, plus district representation encompassing superintendents, a principal, plus curricular, business and technical administrators.

A further indication of its commitment is that NDE has chosen WestEd and its integration team to bring the optimal thinking, planning, and production tools available nationally to address the information needs of school reform. This team is responsible to the SMART Project Officer, Denise Quon. Inquires regarding the project may be directed to her attention at the address given at the end of this article. WestEd, the lead agency in this systems integration project, is joined by BDM Education Technologies, Evaluation Software Publishing, and Sierra Systems Consultants. Each of these organizations have extensive experience in strategic planning, project management, systems design and development, school district technology planning, training and technical assistance. Each is also recognized as national leaders in student information management issues and, along with WestEd, has worked with the US Department of Education, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Forum on Education Statistics, as well as districts and vendors at the local level to achieve the vision of comparable, consistent, timely and accurate student information to support accountability and school reform.

Nevada's initiative is indicative of a growing number of inter-operating information systems between local educational agencies and their respective state education agencies. Those states which currently have some form of automated reporting at the individual student record level include Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Carolina and Texas. Several other states are considering systems employing similar concepts, including California. This publication has previously reported the progress of the California Student Information System, a demonstration project combining efforts of the California Department of Education, WestEd and a number of county offices of education and school districts.

Direct inquiries to:

Nevada Department of Education
Attn. Denise Quon, Evaluation Consultant
Planning, Research and Evaluation
700 east Fifth Street
Carson City , Nevada 89710.

The project also maintains a web site at http://www.wested.org/smart

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