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Utah Personalizes Learning With Portable Records

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Coauthored by Robyn Bagley and Tom Vander Ark

In October, Digital Learning Now! published Data Backpacks: Portable Records & Learner Profiles . The paper makes the case for portable academic K-12 transcript that follows students grade to grade and school to school. In addition to demographic information, state testing data, and supplementary student supports, the paper recommended tracking additional information in order to represent a more holistic picture of student achievement--such as a gradebook of standards-based performance data and a portfolio of personal bests--and better capture the student's progression at any moment in time. Since this data would follow students to each new learning experience, learning could be tailored to meet their individual needs from the first lesson rather than the extra time teachers must spend diagnosing student needs and abilities.

Robyn Bagley, Parents for Choice in Education, saw the paper and knew Utah's existing data system infrastructure gave them a big head start on a portable record. She talked to a champion of Ed Tech policy and personalized learning, Senator Jerry Stevenson who agreed to sponsor a bill. Together they were able to knock out this groundbreaking legislation in one session, placing Utah schools one step closer to tailoring education to the individual needs of the student by providing those closest to them with access to meaningful data.

The Student Achievement Backpack bill, Utah Senate Bill 82, was signed into law in March. It provides for access by a student's parent/guardian or school/district to the electronic record. The bill gives schools until June 30, 2017 to fully incorporate the expanded record into their student information system.

When fully implemented, The Student Achievement Backpack will use cloud-based technology to create a common Student Record Store. Senate Bill 82 implementation will occur in three phases:

  • Phase one creates a cloud-based repository for all grades.
  • Phase two functionality will expand the data collected from student information systems into the Student Record Store.
  • Phase three will ensure final mobility integration of all required data collected in the Student Record Store into all LEA student information systems; and made available to all authorized users in an easily accessible viewing format to include administrators, teachers and parents no later than June 30, 2017.

The one-stop collection of student information will provide a comprehensive view of a student's progress and achievement and enable parents, teachers and administrators to diagnose the student's needs and abilities immediately in order to tailor their learning experience. The electronic record will help parents and counselors facilitate postsecondary planning. Bagley and proponents view the Backpack as especially empowering for parents by allowing them to play a more active role in their child's education through simplified access to their complete learner profile.

Student Achievement Backpack Data will include course taking, instructors and grades; formative, interim, and summative computer adaptive assessments state assessments and growth scores; and writing samples.

John Bailey, director of Digital Learning Now!, said, "Utah is on the cutting edge yet again by committing to portable electronic records for all students."

Utah Data. Utah has one of the most robust longitudinal data collection systems in the nation due to federal grants adding up to nearly $15 million plus an investment of over $6 million appropriated by the Utah Legislature. The system already enables the statewide management of district data collection, validation, and submission from multiple student information systems using Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF). Because Utah's architecture uses SIF, the state can change the parameters of what is collected from the districts' SIS without major restructuring of the system.

This standards-based infrastructure enables automated collections while allowing local education agencies (LEAs) to quickly and easily review data. Utah's current system is poised to make this affordable upgrade to an expanded collection of student data into a cloud-based student record store that is accessible by district SIS.

Digital Learning Now! is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

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The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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