3 EdTech Leaders Share How Their Data Strategies Improve Decisions, Student Outcomes, & Parent Trust

by iSphere on June 1, 2023 in Blog

What do your school leaders need to know to ensure that data is managed effectively and securely? To protect the privacy of students? To comply with relevant regulations?

iSphere gathered together dozens of education and IT professionals before the annual 2023 CoSN conference in Austin, Texas to discuss the benefits of having a proper data governance framework in place. The result? Better decision-making, improved student outcomes, and increased trust from parents and other stakeholders.

The panel got into the weeds, covering key considerations when developing a data governance strategy, such as data quality, data privacy and security, and data transparency. They also discussed their efforts to put processes in place for software and application vetting and the benefits of standardizing software across different grade levels. They note their work toward data governance is an ongoing journey that involves creating a culture prioritizing data privacy and ensuring people, processes, and technology all work together effectively.


Listen to the presentation


Here are some edited highlights:

Our panel included some forward-thinking leaders from across several Texas ISDs.



Karen Fuller

CETL, Director Network Infrastructure and Communications, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, TX

Evangelina Mendoza

Chief Information Technology Officer, San Antonio Independent School District, TX (SAISD)

Bobby LaFleur

Officer of Information Technology, Spring ISD, TX




Where did their data governance journey begin:

Fuller: One of the things that we knew is that the state of Texas was about to require submissions to the Texas Student Data System (TSDS) through a product called Ed-Fi. And as soon as we saw that, we knew we needed to make sure our data’s clean. And then during COVID, we had a lot of people claiming that they owned the data that was being submitted for reporting throughout the district. We had three or four different departments that said, “No, it’s my data.” And the other department said, “No, it’s my data!”  And the other department said, “No, it’s my data.” And I looked at ’em, and said, “No, it’s MY data.” So that started our data governance journey on what data governance meant, where it was, who was responsible for it, where it actually came from, and what the standardization was.


Mendoza: AISD has done a lot of work around data governance, but this is never-ending. Our journey of creating this culture that prioritizes data privacy, knowing who the data owner is, and what are the roles and responsibilities, still continues. During COVID, we went through this period where rules kind of went out the window. We were purchasing all kinds of hardware and software to get us through the pandemic. And now we need to reel some of that back in and make sure that we follow the processes. Again, that culture of people, processes, and technology has to work together to have a good data governance model.


LaFleur: This has been an adventure for us, getting our end users involved. We started this process a couple of years ago, trying to standardize and put data-sharing agreements in place. And now I’ve gotten purchasing involved and we put a process together where they vet it as well as myself and my team before schools can purchase. And we’re actually engaging with the curriculum department as well.


On their most pressing concerns:

Fuller: On a Monday morning, the first thing that comes to mind for me is where the data is coming from and where it’s going. I remember a meeting where we had three different reports presented, and we couldn’t identify where they came from or why they differed. This was a wake-up call for our executive team, and we realized the need for a data governance process and procedures to ensure that the data we present is accurate and reliable.

We started our data governance committee and roadmap, which is focused on business administration and best practices for data management. Data governance is not just about technology. It’s also about policies and procedures that ensure data privacy and security for everyone involved, from teachers to students. We need to raise awareness about what data governance means and why it’s essential for everyone to understand.


Mendoza: There is a life cycle of the data. But when it comes to getting it accurate, when do you stop collecting it or stop sending it to a third party or software vendor? I think everybody needs to be aware that they need to be good data stewards. Even though I may be securing the server that your data is on, you also need to do due diligence and, and protect the data and make sure that it’s accurate. You wouldn’t allow a stranger to come into your classroom, right? We put all these protections up for physical security because we can see the stranger coming into the classroom, then why do you do it online? There’s no difference. It’s just that you can’t see the stranger, but you’re putting all that data in front of, you know, you know, whoever it may be.


On best practices:

Fuller: One of the most eye-opening for when we started our data governance that our teams realized was that just because I work in this department doesn’t mean I have the right to say you can have my data. Just because I use this data doesn’t mean that I have the right to give you this data. Who truly has the right to say yes, you can have this data? And that was part of what data governance really proved to us. The first thing that we started with was student data and who truly is responsible for ensuring that student data is correct before it even gets entered or passed on or distributed to another organization. That’s where you have to begin. We always get accused of being the NO department. But what we have to learn to work with is the KNOW department. We need to know what you’re gonna do with that data. We need to know what data you’re going to give so that we’re not giving you the NO answer. Help us know what you’re going do with that data so that we can give the data that’s reasonable and we just don’t do a complete data dump. I think that’s the challenge that we all have.


LaFleur: In my journey, it is engage, engage, engage, engage. It’s not engaging only at my level or below. It’s at the cabinet level as well. Give them the understanding they are the ones that are asking for the data. And if the data isn’t correct, we need to have those hard conversations. That it’s your responsibility to have this filter down to the whole school district. It’s their responsibility to enter it in the time of fashion and to make sure it’s correct in order for the district to be able to report the correct data so we can get our funding.


Mendoza: Our students and our students are growing up in this world that’s very digital and everything’s online and they’re going out and just checking, you know, accepting terms and conditions to all kinds of acts and games and stuff. And I think that’s one thing that we also try to do—set awareness with staff, awareness with our cabinet, and awareness with our students. That’s why we’re here. That’s our main purpose for existing.



Your school data strategies are the starting point for better decisions, student outcomes, and parent rapport. The iSphere team can help you create the right data foundation.


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