Interoperability saves time and money

Hiring a new teacher in 2016 puts in motion a long series of administrative events. Someone in the district office must:

  • Create a new email account for the teacher
  • Add the teacher’s demographic data to the HR database
  • Add the teacher’s bank information in the payroll system
  • Add the teacher to the Student Information System (SIS)
  • Add the teacher to the School Assessment Platform (SAP)
  • Add the teacher to the Learning Management System (LMS)
  • Add the teacher to the Teacher Effectiveness Platform (TEP)
  • Add the teacher to the Response to Intervention Platform (RtI)

And the list goes on.

Without interoperable systems, that is, systems that can talk to each other and share data back and forth, this one teacher must be manually added in all 8+ platforms. Including the time it takes to fill out each field in each platform, plus the page loads and consulting other data sources to ensure everything is correct, let’s estimate this process takes 10 minutes per teacher.

  • Multiply 10 minutes by the number of new teachers that are hired by a school district each year.
  • Multiply 10 minutes by the number of teachers that leave a school district each school year and have to be removed from these systems, one by one.
  • Beyond teachers, student data must be entered in the same systems. Multiply 10 minutes by the number of students in a district, and you have enough work to create 2-3 full-time positions in the summer dedicated solely to adding and adjusting users in multiple school databases.

The amount of time spent on manually creating users in ed tech platforms at the start of the school year is incomprehensible! Closed systems create an administrative burden like the example above that saps districts of time, money, and brainpower that could be spent on higher leverage things. Sure, options like CSV uploads can save some time, but they, too, require time to format, and one errant comma can break the entire thing.

Interoperability between ed tech platforms is the solution. Our company has already moved in this direction with an open API that can connect to other systems (e.g., HR, payroll, reporting, etc.), so that when teacher data is entered in one system, it automatically updates in Whetstone. As an ed tech industry, we are trying to make our users’ lives easier so that they can spend time on the important stuff in schools. However, if our products don’t integrate, we actually create more work. Schools should be able to pull data to, from, and between their platforms to save time and add context to the data in each system to make informed decisions. Openness won’t just make users’ lives easier, it will make their data more powerful, which will keep them coming back.

Libby Fischer is CEO of Whetstone Education.