AELAS: It’s About Time

The Arizona Education Learning and Accountability System is a comprehensive statewide data solution for education transformation. The system will enable parents, teachers, administrators and policy makers to make smart, effective and efficient decisions affecting student outcomes.

AELAS for FY15

Click on a thumbnail to read more about AELAS.

thumbnail   thumbnail   thumbnail   thumbnail   thumbnail   thumbnail   thumbnail

The AELAS Plan

A.R.S. §15-249

In 2010, the Arizona Legislature enacted A.R.S. §15-249, which mandates that Arizona “shall develop and implement the education learning and accountability system to collect, compile, maintain and report student level data for students attending public educational institutions…” The Arizona Department of Education conducted a methodical and comprehensive study of the state of Arizona’s education landscape. This study was conducted in 2012, and the team’s evaluation and resulting recommendations comprise the AELAS Business Case.
screenshot of AELAS Business Case cover page

AELAS Business Case

The AELAS Business Case study team was composed of highly qualified educators and technological experts, who together provided ADE with a valuable and unique perspective on the complexity of Arizona’s education data systems.


(Click on the thumbnail at left to read the study as a PDF document.)

Cost of the Status Quo

District IT Costs

slide showing annual IT costs per district


The AELAS Business Case research team found that Arizona’s districts and charters spend up to $281,000,000 every year on software maintenance and licensing fees. In fact, LEAs that account for only 18% of students statewide pay up to 46% of all the costs for that software.(Click on picture to see larger)

Per-Student IT Costs

slide showing average per-student cost for each applicationADE’s research also found that the smaller the district or charter, the higher the per-student costs. Those LEAs pay up to 10 times more than the largest districts. Pooling resources statewide allows these smaller LEAs to realize economies of scale.

Savings Through Progress

slide demonstrating savings potential
Looking at just one of the many areas of potential savings, Arizona’s districts and charters could redirect millions of dollars every year simply by opting into a statewide student information system.


Click the thumbnail above to read more

AELAS Performance Review

“A Performance Review of the Arizona Education Learning and Assessment System: AELAS”

Submitted to the Arizona Department of Education and the Arizona Department of Administration by WestEd and CELT – September 3, 2013

cover page of AELAS 2013 Performance ReviewThe Arizona Department of Administration contracted WestEd and CELT to conduct an independent evaluation of the Arizona Education Learning and Assessment System, as required by A.R.S. §15-249. The primary goals of this evaluation were to determine if the Arizona Department of Education’s AELAS project was on track to fulfill the mandate set out in A.R.S. §15-249. After reviewing all related documentation and interviewing stakeholders throughout the state (from department IT staff to rural educators), the evaluation team prepared a report comprising commendations on work already done, a summary of the research, and recommendations for improvement.


  • ADE’s vision for AELAS not only meets the scope of work outlined in A.R.S. §15-249, but rightly uses the legislation as a platform for a comprehensive statewide education data system that will meet accountability requirements and deliver critical information to Arizona’s educators.
  • The department’s enterprise architecture approach to building AELAS is service-oriented, incorporates emerging best practices, and is supported by education providers and business owners.
  • ADE’s AELAS team combines educator proponents with skilled IT staff and consultants, which enables managers to ensure all projects work together and meet end-users’ needs.
  • AELAS stakeholders and champions represent diverse groups and interests.
  • AELAS components are being piloted with small groups of volunteers, which provides invaluable feedback and buy-in for the project.


The following recommendations regarding AELAS were put forth in the 2013 Performance Review report prepared by WestEd and CELT as independent evaluators contracted by the Arizona Department of Administration.

Highlighted Recommendations

  • Develop AELAS as both a state-level data system and classroom-level support for effective teaching and learning.
  • Expand the business architecture of AELAS as an integrated learning enterprise system.
  • Improve communication of AELAS projects’ scope, costs, goals, and functions to all audiences.
  • Manage data issues through robust data governance and streamlined data collection processes.
  • Work with educational institutions of all levels and locations to improve technological capacity to utilize new systems.
  • Establish a long-term planning mechanism for incorporating user feedback and implementing improvements to AELAS.

Plans for Improvement

ADE has taken the above recommendations to heart and is already moving forward with plans that will help AELAS be the education enhancement system it has the potential to become. AELAS applications are continually being launched, improved, and expanded. Districts are signing up for pilot projects every week, and schools use fully functional systems every day. With continued support from state legislators and buy-in from local educational authorities, AELAS will become the exemplary Arizona Education Learning and Accountability System it is destined to be.

click for AELAS Action Plan

Click to view AELAS Action Plan


WestEd CELT – January Status Report


The Real Cost of SAIS

ADE researchers study the costs of SAIS to districts and charters

  • SAIS has approximately 2,000,000 identifiable errors every year
  • Districts and charters spend $40 million dollars every year fixing ADE data errors
  • Nearly 500 full-time employees statewide dedicated to making SAIS work in their district/charter

Vail School District tells Superintendent Huppenthal the real cost of SAIS

“The real tragedy [of SAIS] is that we have four highly-capable, technically-proficient individuals on the payroll just to make SAIS work…. I have to wonder what wonderful, amazing, creative things these four individuals could do to forward the mission of educating children if they didn’t have to spend all their time fixing SAIS.”

-Matt Federoff, Chief Information Officer, Vail School District

Error shorts Arizona schools $38 million

By Anne Ryman
The Republic |
Sun Jan 27, 2013

Tell us your SAIS Story! Email us at

AELAS Testimonials

The Arizona education community is excited about AELAS!

In dialog with my colleagues across the state, one thing is clear. The technological flow of student/school based data to and fro the state is significantly faster and more stable than it has ever been. Further, I believe that in the last two years, the ADE has progressed six years in the use of data for not only funding, but in preparing to efficiently use data as measures of learning and operational efficiencies of schooling. Where Arizona goes the next two years, is up to Arizona.

- Jeff Billings, Information Technology Director, Paradise Valley Unified School District

Large K12 School District Representative, Arizona Data Quality Governance Commission

Watch video testimonial
- Michele Norin, Chief Information Officer, University of Arizona
Vice Chair, Data Governance Commission

“The technology infrastructure for the Arizona Department of Education is woefully lacking. In order for Arizona’s educational system to become high performing this inadequacy must be resolved.”

–Calvin Baker, Superintendent, Vail School District

Watch video testimonial

“This wonderful state cannot begin to address the many needs of our students without appropriate data and this can only come from a significant investment in technology. It is a contradiction to expect schools to use data to drive instruction if ADE cannot do the same thing.”

– Ron Neil, Superintendent, Sequoia School

“I often work for several days to organize my students’ AIMS data in a way that is meaningful. I can’t even imagine the hour count across our district, or our city, or better yet, our state. However, after working with ADE as a pilot school, I look forward to seeing this dashboard in action, so I can create my game plan before the first day of school, and service each of my students starting on day one.“

– Kate Robold, 5th Grade Teacher, Senita Elementary School

Watch video testimonial

“Please support the Arizona Department of Education’s data system overhaul/upgrade/replacement. It is vital that we have information that is accurate, current and accessible.”

Myriam M. Roa, Superintendent, Phoenix Elementary School District #1

“The current data system is so bad, we would have better luck using a divining rod to determine what our disbursement will be each month. This is the number one problem for us.”

Kathy Tolman, Legacy Schools