Ed Ahead Gives Positive Reviews of SISS


On October 17, Ed Ahead, a.k.a. Academy Adventures Midtown, became the first LEA to opt in to Arizona’s statewide student information system. SSIS, or the Statewide Student Information System, was created by the Arizona Department of Education to allow all LEAs the opportunity to enjoy a state-of-the-art student information system for a low cost.

In developing SISS, ADE partnered with Edupoint and its Synergy student information system. The impetus for teaming up with Edupoint was to assist the smaller LEAs throughout the state, who are currently paying more than 10 times per student costs than larger districts. With ADE, all LEAs that opt-in pay the same low rate of $10 a student for the first year and $6.50 a student per year thereafter.

“ADE has worked extremely hard over the past few years to create an opportunity for districts and charters of all shapes and sizes to be able to access software that manages critical student data to support the classroom,” said John Huppenthal, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction. “It has been our mission to provide great technology tools to districts and charters at an affordable price, leading to better decisions with the limited dollars Arizona has to invest in technology.”

In addition, by having technical support readily available through ADE, a small LEA has less of a need for a technology staff. However, LEAs of Ed Ahead’s size now receive equal access to critical technology, uniform licensing fees and a secure hosted environment.

While Ed Ahead opting in was a noteworthy achievement in and of itself, the story doesn’t end there. Since transitioning to the state’s system, Ed Ahead’s SAIS Coordinator Angela Towner Mertz has spearheaded the implementation process at her LEA.

Although she has not spent a ton of time on Synergy thus far, she has been quite impressed with the system, its capabilities and the trainers that have assisted her.

The SAIS Coordinator is quite pleased how quickly the issues that she has confronted have been addressed and resolved.

“Being a small school, often these systems do not work well for us because they are geared towards only big schools and big districts,” Towner Mertz said. “But Synergy is awesome because it can easily adapt to any size school or school district. I am really excited to continue learning more about it because each new thing I learn about the system makes me like it even more.”

However, she noted that when adapting to any new system, there is always an adjustment period. Towner Mertz expected to having undergone a bit of a learning curve.

“Although I have asked many questions regarding some errors and issues I have had,” she said, “Those few things have not been discouraging and have not made me frustrated with the system.”

Since being made available to LEAs, five LEAs have decided to opt in with SSIS, with a few other LEAs coming down the pike shortly. Originally meant for smaller LEAs, larger districts are interested because they say it offers a better user experience for parents, teachers and kids, seamless integration, essential live data and its existence within the cloud.

To learn more about SSIS, click here.

Tyler Becomes First to Certify With AzEDS


If AELAS was a blockbuster movie, AzEDS would be the executive producer.

Of all of the AELAS’ initiatives, AzEDS is the one that few know about, but makes the magic happen. Although AzEDS may be unrecognizable to the public, it ensures that everything the public does see runs smoothly. Moreover, AzEDS will save administrative staffs untold hours and dollars they already spend compiling and submitting data.

On Thursday, the Arizona Department of Education made a huge leap forward when Tyler Technologies became the first vendor to certify with AzEDS. In order to certify, a vendor undergoes a six-hour process of testing, four hours of which occur on the first day.

“They had everything ready for us,” ADE Business Analyst Rose Whelihan said. “Their system has to be mapped, as well as have the capability for all their data to be submitted. The process was extremely smooth.”

This story began on October 19, 2012, when the Arizona Data Governance Commission directed ADE to immediately implement the Ed-Fi data model and Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) data standards. All education data systems must adopt these standards in order to send or receive data from ADE systems.

By standardizing and streamlining the collection and reporting of critical information based on CEDS and the Ed-Fi structure, AzEDS helps educators concentrate on teaching and students to focus on learning. AzEDS is the data standard for this system, a common language and processes to simplify the exchange of data between LEAs and their state agencies.

Every school in Arizona is required to track and report hundreds of pieces of information every week, requiring countless hours of work and an ever-increasing financial burden. AzEDS automates the majority of the reporting without compromising privacy or reducing LEA control over student data.

Besides streamlining communication, AzEDS will also enable new Arizona Dashboards (AZDash) to offer near real-time student data. This allows educators to make instantaneous decisions within the classroom.

Finally, it is also critical for LEAs to partner with a vendor that has been certified as AzEDS compliant in order to receive state aid for the upcoming school year. Vendors currently have until July 1, 2015 to complete the certification process.

Having just started developing AzEDS in FY2013, ADE already has one vendor certified and is currently working with the second. Stay tuned for more information on that development this week.