Dec 14 2007

Remembering SIF

Information sharing system is gaining momentum despite a rocky start.

As more schools and districts consider enterprise resource planning (ERP) software today, it reminds veteran school information technology administrators of a different type of effort. While ERPs are simply one program that completes the work that used to take several programs, the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF) aims much higher.

SIF started when a group of competing companies worked together to come up with a plan to allow a school’s software programs to share information seamlessly. When this movement was formally unveiled at a National Educational Computing Conference session 10 years ago, a spontaneous ovation broke out among school officials.

The ability to get a school’s student information system to share vital information with the school library, cafeteria and bus company was a goal far in the distance.

But as hard as it was to start such an endeavor, it was harder to have the various officials follow through on a workable plan. While the nonprofit organization SIF isn’t dead, it did take years for the group to agree on specifications and start adding adopters. (Version 2.1 of the specifications was released in September.)

Today, the slightly renamed Schools Interoperability Framework Association is gaining momentum, albeit at a quieter pace than its arrival. SIFA counts two state departments of education (Wyoming and Virginia) among its customers, as well as a number of school districts, including tech progressives Lake Washington (Wash.) School District, Anoka-Hennepin (Minn.) School District and Bellevue (Wash.) School District.