The Student Data Backpack from the Practitioner’s Point of View

DATA BackpackRecently, I spent a little time reading the Digital Learning Now Smart Series whitepaper: DATA BACKPACKS: Portable Records & Learner Profiles. This topic is of interest and importance for the following reasons:

FLVS is committed to keeping the student at the center of every decision that we make. How can we be sure we are making good decisions if we have limited data?

The current process for retrieving the student data we can get is extremely time consuming, lengthy, and really just stinks all the way around.

  • It takes six to nine months to get Advanced Placement exam scores back for our students; and we have to pay to get our own scores back.
  • It takes two to four months to get a portion of our Florida End of Course exam results back.
  • Florida has recently passed legislation tying teacher evaluations and funding to test results, so it is more imperative than ever that all instructional providers have access to the same and complete student data.

While I whole-heartedly agree the student data backpack is essential, I’d like to take a few minutes to share a practitioner’s view of the three student data problems presented in the whitepaper.

1. Current official transcripts do not provide enough information to allow teachers to personalize learning from the first day of school.

FLVS is on track to successfully serve more than 200,000 students through FLVS Part Time (FLVS PT) this year. Students register every day as we have rolling enrollment, so we have 365 “first days of school.”  FLVS PT does not have access to past academic records. Officially, these students still belong to their geographic school district. The guidance counselor at the student’s geographic school approves the course as academically appropriate. FLVS does not currently have access to past test data, other course grades, retention/acceleration activities, or other information found on an official transcript. Only after the student begins to build a portfolio at FLVS are we able to use this new data to personalize the learning for that student. When the student completes a course, FLVS shares only transcript data (not personalized learning data) with both the school district and the state.

As students begin to leverage the power of school choice, they could easily select courses from three or more approved instructional providers. Think for a minute as to what this really means. What if the student chooses to only take one course from his or her geographic school, three courses from FLVS, and two courses from another Florida approved instructional provider? Is the geographic school still considered his or her school of enrollment? Which school will hold all the student’s records?

A student’s past academic records (transcripts) must be available in a central location to all providers equally and in real time.

2.  Customized learning requires an enhanced and expanded Learner Profile.

All instructional providers are racing to customize learning through enhanced and expanded learner profiles, resulting in just as many newly developed systems. All will be just slightly different, but paid by the taxpayer many times over. Think of that student taking courses from three different providers. Shouldn’t all teachers of a student know that student’s learning styles, interests, etc.? Should each provider need to figure this out in isolation? If we hold true to our commitment to keep the student at the center of our decisions, all providers should have access to the same expanded learner profile data in addition to the student transcript.

Expanded student learner profiles must be available in a central location to all providers equally and in real time.

3. The system must balance the need for access to student data with privacy management tools that empower families.

Florida has approximately 2.6 million students in grades Kindergarten-12. Many students taking FLVS courses have access to a computer at home, but other students access virtual courses in one of more than 300 Virtual Learning Labs located within geographic school districts throughout the state. As much as I agree with parents controlling access to their student’s data backpack, we need to have an alternative plan for parents who simply do not have access. A centralized data warehouse combined with local instructional information systems could be very helpful.  If data elements are “owned” by one system but available to all, then there would be a single student profile, rules to prevent synchronization issues, and common tagging for what each data field means.

In Florida, instructional providers are approved by the state, and it is a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education. (Florida Constitution)

The data backpack system must be:

  • Uniform (accessible to students, parents, and approved instructional providers)
  • Efficient (centralized data)
  • Safe and Secure (include all necessary privacy management tools)
  • High quality (easy to access, use, and chock-full of valuable data)
  • Free to all students, parents, and approved instructional providers

Post by Holly Sagues, Former Executive Director of Governmental Affairs & Strategic Solutions

One comment on “The Student Data Backpack from the Practitioner’s Point of View

  1. Ms. Eason

    Perhaps a unique identifier should be developed for each student and educator similiar to the NPI for medical professionals so that no matter where they are in the US, their data will be attached to that identifier. Students and parents can access their own data but also authorized educators can also access their data too. As far as a centralized data backpack, the information that the school system and the government have already could be utilized to build a centralized database with controlled access for all educational institutions. This would eliminate the need for each institution to create a separate proprietary database wasting valuable taxpayer dollars or for students to populate a database with incorrect and/or erroneous information.


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