Assessment Interoperability Framework
To date, a lack of accepted data standards has limited states’ and districts’ abilities to use the most innovative assessment systems. As they develop next-generation assessment systems, states in the Race to the Top Assessment consortia and General Supervision Enhancement Grant consortia need to establish such standards to facilitate item and data transfer across systems and across states.
The Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) project is a national collaborative effort, with funding from U.S. Department of Education and Institute of Education Sciences, to develop voluntary, common data standards for a key set of education data elements to streamline the exchange, comparison, and understanding of data within and across P-20W institutions and sectors. Districts that participate in the standard, for example, can have confidence “that their data will be accurately interpreted by recipients, and that they, in turn, will understand data received from others.” (Publications & Presentations)
The CEDS team leveraged existing standards work done by the IMS Global Consortium (IMS) and SIF Association (SIF) communities and worked with both organizations to create the new assessment entities and elements. CEDS contains the domains, entities and elements for the data model only. In order to fully support the development of the Assessment Interoperability Framework (AIF), one must use SIF and IMS components to support a complete interoperability solution for assessment systems.
AIF provides a common structure to allow for the transfer of any data associated with assessment systems; including student and teacher information, learning standards, assessment items, results, and related data across systems.
The IMS Global Accessible Portable Item Protocol (APIP) Standard is an interoperability standard enabling the exchange of assessment content and an examinee’s accessibility needs by defining standard XML-based exchange formats. APIP also provides expectations of a computer-based assessment delivery system for the delivery of an assessment to an examinee.
APIP (Accessible Portable Item Protocol) addresses two long-standing needs in state-wide assessments. First, it allows for the transfer of content between vendors using a standardized XML format. Second, it supplies the necessary accessibility information in that content to support the needs of all students. Using user profile information, the content can be tailored to meet the access needs of each student.
APIP began as a concept in April of 2009. It grew out of states’ concern that as they moved toward computer-based testing, they would need a way to exchange their assessment content between states & vendors, as well as ensuring that tests delivered on computers were accessible to the greatest number of students possible.
Eight states, led by Minnesota, formed a consortium and received funding from the US DOE through an Enhanced Assessment Grant. From September of 2009 through April of 2011, states worked together with IMS GLC to create a project version of APIP, which was released in March 2011. Some states have requested the use of APIP based on the project version of APIP.
Since that time, work on the protocol has continued within IMS to bring APIP to a public standard. Several vendors and educational representatives work together to ensure the standard is thoroughly reviewed, and interoperable between assessment system.
The XML format that the content is stored in is primarily intended to be used to transfer the content from one system/vendor to another. The raw XML file isn’t necessarily meant to be used as the delivery format, though it could be. For that reason, the XML structure is designed to be precise and clear, not concise. Delivery vendors may choose to use different methods to deliver content.
The SIF Implementation Specification is a technical standard that is used by developers of education software to ease the transfer of data among applications in use by schools, districts and state education agencies. Run by the SIF Association, the SIF implementation specification provides a common language that allows for secure data transporting between one application and/or organization and another. Previously, this activity would have required human intervention to sort out the different forms of data being shared.
The SIF Implementation Specification (US) 2.6 and SIF Data Model Implementation Specification (US): SIF3 Namespace provides interoperability standards for assessment, student information, teacher information, organizational hierarchies, learning standards and reporting.
Figure 1.1(from AIF Best Practices) illustrates the relationship between the two standards. The green arrows represent IMS, yellow arrows SIF and purple arrows a combination of SIF and IMS. A full explanation of the diagram can be located at https://ceds.ed.gov/pdf/aif-definitions-and-requirements.pdf. CEDS incorporates the data entities and elements from the SIF and IMS standards.