Digging Deeper into ED Open Data: New ED Data Inventory

If you love data, and especially open data, there’s a good chance you also care about quality metadata. We have some exciting news: the Department of Education launched a new ED Data Inventory!

The Inventory is available as a searchable website and a JSON file.  It contains descriptions about the data the Department collected as part of program and grant activities as well as statistical data collections.

Richer information about the Department’s data makes it more accessible and understandable to researchers, developers and entrepreneurs. Our hope is that users will be able to put this freely available government data alongside other sources of data to advance new studies, products, services and apps. The tools and advances in knowledge and best practices can help American students, parents and educators and continue to improve America’s schools. Empowered with more relevant, timely information, students and families will be able to make more informed decisions about education and preparation for college and career.

The ED Data Inventory is a work in progress. The Department’s Data Strategy Team sponsored a working group that did the heavy lifting on this project under the leadership of Marilyn Seastrom, Chief Statistician for the National Center for Education Statistics. The inventory so far covers 33 data series with a total of 223 component studies or data collections. For each data collection, the inventory includes information on the specific data elements used and their definitions. The descriptions link to accessible, online copies of the datasets and systems. The inventory work is ongoing – the team is still at work adding descriptions of more data series and studies. 

The release of the ED Data Inventory is part of the Department’s response to the President’s Executive Order, Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information, and the Open Data Policy. The content from the ED Data Inventory’s JSON file will soon feed the Department’s content on Data.gov. We have been working with the OMB Office of Science and Technology Policy to make open government data easier for the public and entrepreneurs to find, understand, and use. Check out the new Next.Data.gov, a design prototype of the next generation of Data.gov, and the education community on Next.Data.gov.  We provide a list of the 35 datasets accessible via API (application programming interface) at ed.gov/developer.

Learn more and connect with us at ed.gov/data. We look forward to your feedback, questions and suggestions.

Jill James is web director at the U.S. Department of Education and a member of the Department’s Data Strategy Team.


Education Datapalooza: Unleashing the Power of Open Data to Help Students, Parents, and Teachers

Imagine new tools to help students choose a college that is right for them and their family.  Or imagine an easy-to-read virtual dashboard for parents to track the academic performance of their children.  Or imagine a digital file that makes it easier for children of active military and for foster youth to make the transition to a new school.

These are the kinds of advances that were on display at the White House last fall, as more than 150 of America’s entrepreneurs, software developers, education experts, and policy makers come together for an Education Datapalooza. The gathering was a chance to celebrate new products, services, and apps—all built with freely available data from the government and other sources—that have the potential to help American students succeed and that empower students and their families to make informed educational decisions. Notable among the day’s many impressive announcements:

  • Over 78 million people are now able to download their own Federal student loan and grant data from the Department of Education via the NSLDS Student Access system.
  • On the K-12 level, pioneering school districts and states—including York County and New York State—are committing to give students the ability to access and download their own academic data.
  • A new state-led effort will make it easier to transfer academic information digitally and securely when moving between schools, an especially valuable service for children of active military and foster children.
  • A new Department of Education and higher education institution collaboration to work on a data standard for postsecondary course catalogs, degree requirements, and related information. As more postsecondary institutions provide their course and awards data in the same format, students will benefit with new options to shorten college completion time and costs.

Watch our playlist of the day’s presenters, including Secretary Duncan and US CTO Todd Park, or view them here.

Many of the announcements of the day build off a simple principle: in an increasingly digital educational system, students should have easy access to their own data.  Moreover, these data should be secure, yet mobile; too often, students can see their data online but can’t take it with them.

One of the core projects talked about is the MyData Initiative—a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Education and software developers to help students securely export or download their own educational data in open, machine-readable, human-readable formats, on any system. A number of vendors that already provide schools with software systems have committed to offer this functionality.

Giving students their own data can be potentially game-changing. For example, with access to their own data, students are able to create personal learning profiles—educational portfolios of their own records. They can then choose to safely share pieces of those learning profiles with an ever-growing network of applications being built by private-sector entrepreneurs to help inform choices about which classes to take, which colleges to apply to, and how to pay for tuition.

Open data standards can also solve problems inherent in the antiquated paper-based student record system. For example, many teachers and principals across the country deal with new students who show up at their classrooms with virtually no paper trail. This forces educators to make important decisions with no student records, no data, and no points of reference. If every student information system can import and export student academic records in the same standardized format, it makes it easier for schools to transfer information internally and with other schools. Moreover, this problem disproportionately affects low-income students, who are often more likely to be transient and are most dependent on support from their schools.

Smart use of open data will help improve college access and affordability for students, and help us meet the President’s challenge to regain our place as world leader in our proportion of college graduates by 2020.

Other open data initiatives such as the Blue Button and Green Button—which are empowering citizens with their own health information and household energy usage information—have proven that liberating data from government vaults can fuel new products and services, grow new businesses, and help create jobs. The Education Datapalooza demonstrated that this model of openness and entrepreneurship can help us achieve similar gains for American education.

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