West Virginia launches online education database

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The West Virginia Department of Education launched a new online database that brings together different sets of school data such as designations, test scores and student proficiency rates.

Called ZoomWV, the database was made possible because of a $4.8 million grant from the U.S. Education Department with the goal of providing public access to essential data and analysis tools that will support student achievement and improve schools.

It was officially launched last week in conjunction with the release of state assessment scores and can be accessed through the department’s official Web page.

Speaking to the Charleston Daily Mail, Suzanne Davis, a data specialist for the department, said the database is a modern application of many things the state has been doing for years.

For example, she said, the department has been collecting this type of data since the 1990s but has lacked a user-friendly way to report it to the public until this program was created.

The state had hoped to create the site two years ago but needed outside funding to make it happen. With the Education Department providing that, the state contracted with Wisconsin-based Versifit to start building the project last April.

The company has developed similar reporting sites for education departments in Oregon, Hawaii and Wisconsin as well as 700 individual school districts. The company was able to build the site for slightly more than $1.5 million.

The site is now the state’s single source for accurate, high-quality education information pertaining to students in prekindergarten through 12th grade.

Along with providing data to the public, ZoomWV will help drive educational initiatives to improve instruction and student performance in the state, in part by making information available in easy-to-understand aggregate reports at the state, regional, county and school level.

With ZoomWV, teachers, school, district regional and state personnel will be able to make more informed decisions on how to improve educational outcomes for students.

Of course, security is one of the major issues regarding the publication of educational data. The department has safeguards such as data encryption and the granting of access only to departmental staff with verified credentials along with keeping the publicly reported data separate from data the includes student information.

Last year, the state Board of Education also codified a pledge to not share student information with third parties, a move made to appease several citizens who were concerned with the state’s adoption of Common Core. The policy does permit the sharing of information with state offices and education agencies, but restricts access to only educational purposes.

The online database will be updated periodically with assessment scores and school designations coming once a year.

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Education & STEM, Open Data, Open Government, Open Source, Software, State & Local News, States, Tech News, West Virginia
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