Let’s Face it: Education Standards Are Hard to Use

Education standards are everywhere – but they need to be operational before they provide value.

A school sits on a foundation of standards as unswerving and dense as the concrete footings on which the school is built. Like all public sectors, the education system is obliged to conform to a host of standards.

Most education standards are developed and published by regulatory bodies, mainly state or federal agencies. Consider student immunization laws, building codes, safety regulations, data privacy policies,  learning standards, state reporting requirements, and school grades. Standards are pervasive in education.

Standards can be a good thing. Standards work well in education because they communicate a consistent set of expectations. Standards can raise the bar. They set a benchmark. They foster interoperability.

The reward for standards conformance can be 1.) measurable improvement in student performance; 2.) appropriate levels of funding to meet educational needs; 3.) public acknowledgment in the form of accountability ratings or school grades; or 4.) prevention of audits and penalties.

But standards can be hard to use. Although they establish consistent expectations, standards can be impractical to use and implement. Standards creators publish standards in the form of frameworks (learning standards), models (data standards) or codes (rules and regulations). Standards are documented on websites, in PDFs, in spreadsheets and in legislative binders.

Rarely do standards creators include tools for implementation. There are few how-to guides for using standards optimally or plugging standards into a district’s operating procedures. Grappling with a way to consume or comply with standards, many district administrators simply hit the “print” button.

The result is that the application of standards can be inefficient, haphazard, subject to interpretation, and non-standard across schools and districts.

At Certica, we focus on the efficient use and implementation of education standards. Since our founding in the early 2000s, we’ve looked for ways to make standards accessible, usable and valuable to educators. Here are some examples.

  • State Reporting Standards Drive Data Integrity & Compliance
    In 2004, we created software for school districts to validate their data against a benchmark of state reporting requirements. By capturing a state’s data reporting standards and then continuously and systematically testing districts’ conformance with those standards, we improved districts’ ability to meet their reporting obligations and deadlines. In addition to testing the completeness and validity of data, the process also tests whether a district is meeting standards related to discipline, student immunizations, courses and credits. Today, Certica’s data validation application, Certify™, is used by districts totaling 4.7 million students.
  • Digitized Learning Standards Connect the EdTech Ecosystem
    In 2015, Certica joined forces with Academic Benchmarks™, the leading provider of curated and digitized learning standards. Over the prior decade, Academic Benchmarks had become—and continues to this day—the “standard for standards”—the leading resource for usable, operational standards, which enable instructional content and assessment providers to align their assets to national and state standards. The AB Connect system applies a unique identifier and supplementary metadata to each standard, and tracks relationships between standards, allowing interoperability across products and platforms. Used by more than 200 content and platform providers, Academic Benchmarks supports an edtech ecosystem that touches 95% of American classrooms every day.
  • Learning Standards Management Made Efficient and Scalable
    Recognizing that education agencies have few tools to develop, revise and manage learning standards, Certica provides a free application for schools and districts to make the process more collaborative and efficient. Sitting atop the Academic Benchmarks repository of digitized learning standards, the Standards Connect™ application gives standards creators the ability to view, edit and publish standards, as well as view relationships between state and national standards. Published standards are made available in the Academic Benchmarks machine-readable format so they can be used by content and edtech vendors to align instructional and assessment content.
  • Data Standard Adoption Made Possible for All School Districts
    The K-12 sector is embracing standards-based interoperability and data integration, to provide highly scalable and secure data systems, centralized data for 360-degree student data analysis, and improved data access for educators and administrators. In 2017, Certica introduced a new way for districts to utilize the Ed-Fi® education data standard, to achieve interoperability goals. Certica put the Ed-Fi data standard and technology at the center of a fully-managed and hosted technology platform, so that districts can realize the value of the data standard, without the hassle of having to figure out how to implement the standard on their own. The platform, called Data Connect™, is making adoption of the Ed-Fi data standard practical and achievable.

When encountering new standards in education, first ask: are these standards operational? Have they been adopted? How will we apply them? To make your implementation of standards efficient, consistent and meaningful, look for applications that systematize, digitize or automate the standards, and enable repeatability and scalability.

To find out more about how Certica software eases standards adoption and compliance, contact us.

Sarah Bassett

Sarah Bassett joined Certica Solutions in 2005 and leads the company's Marketing organization. She has held numerous roles at Certica, including heading Sales and Client Services. She has more than 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, customer management and professional services with IT and enterprise software providers.

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