The Journey to Data Interoperability

  • 1
  • October 18, 2017

As Districts adopt more and more digital learning resources, data remains across multiple systems, igniting the need for greater data interoperability.


Without a streamlined place to manage all this data, educational leaders are faced with the uphill battle of how to effectively access and plan for student achievement.

For educators, the challenge of siloed data needs to be resolved sooner, rather than later.  Valuable time and key resources are being wasted on manual data entries, which are both a cumbersome task and susceptible to human error. In an effort to build a common consensus and understanding of the expectations for how school districts can support this mission-critical agenda, ClassLink hosted a Leadership Webinar titled: K-12 Interoperability, How District Tech Leaders Are Making It Work.

During our webinar, we heard from Kyle Berger, Chief Technology Officer for Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, and George Perreault, ClassLink’s Chief Academic Officer and former Director, Instructional Technology and Library Media for Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) in Florida, and Jeff Janover, ClassLink’s VP of Interoperability and former Director of Technology for New Jersey public school district. All three presenters offered a unique perspective on how to advance data interoperability, specifically focused on enrollment (rostering) challenges.

Here are 8 important takeaways to get you started on this journey:

  1. Begin planning in January. Compile a complete list of all digital resources you plan to invest in the Fall. Organize your resource list according to relevance, and track how many spreadsheets are needed for these vendors/publishers. Ask around in different departments to get to a true quantity. This step can help you obtain support from leadership and community members. 
  2. Verify your Student Information System (SIS) will conform to a standard format. If not, you may want to prioritize other SIS options. 
  3. Recognize and be able to articulate the need for data interoperability to others. In the past, districts dealt with just a few online or digital products requiring rostering. Most districts are now working with numerous products, each with unique requirements for rostering. Getting vendors to accept a common file format is imperative. Berger shared that in the past, his district would be high-fiving if they provided access to resources by Thanksgiving. Perreault added that taking the time to plan early is optimal as it allows you to aim for “Digital Day One” i.e. Back to School.
  4. Research first to see if top-priority resources are currently working with a standard. Be prepared to make this demand a critical consideration for your district as you plan out your digital resources for the next academic year. 
  5. Get ‘buy-in’ from district leadership on using open data standards (OneRoster).  If a vendor or publisher does not comply with the standards, having this support will allow you to pick and choose (and rely on a backup if necessary). Refer to the OneRoster single file format at
  6. The requirement for vendors to accept a data standard is a MUST for districts embracing digital, not a WANT. When dealing with vendors and publishers, recall the power of group influence. The more of us calling to ask a vendor “Are you IMS Global certified?”, the better the chances will be that a vendor will feel compelled to do it. The vendors/publishers need to do the work on their end because all the data is there, the mappings just need to be accommodated.

    To quote Perreault, “We are working too hard to do the work for the people we pay”.

  7. Sometimes, the challenge is getting through to the right person to talk about data standards. A vendor may respond saying they are not ready to accept data through a standard or may be unaware of this capability. Keep asking around until you find the right people better equipped to answer these questions. They do exist!
  8. Most of the larger vendors are already on board and coming around. Even smaller organizations are realizing that it is not that complicated to conform to the IMS Global data standards, and so we are at least headed in the right direction.

Making this work has huge advantages for K-12 stakeholders. Let’s keep the conversations happening here and @ClassLink. Check out the Webinar for more information. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a time to speak with ClassLink, give us a call at (888) 963-7550 or request a demo.