DALLAS, Nov. 10, 1999 — The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) and Microsoft Corp. today announced the developers release of the first working specification for the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF), a new technical blueprint for ensuring that software applications in K-12 schools can share information seamlessly. The release marks the beginning of a public review period for the specification, the release of SIF deployment guidelines and the successful completion of pilot programs in two U.S. school districts.
Since Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates announced the launch of SIF in February, 10 working groups of leading education software vendors and educators have collaborated to resolve a major barrier to efficient school operations and administrative decision-making: the inability to access data such as student information systems, library management applications and food services across multiple applications. On Nov. 1, SIIA assumed management of the Schools Interoperability Framework project.
"Microsoft is to be congratulated on taking its vision of sharing information between diverse K-12 applications and committing the resources to make it a reality," said Ken Wasch, president of SIIA. "Today's announcement clearly shows what can be achieved when companies, often with differing business objectives, work together with a single purpose. SIF members believe that America's children are entitled to the best technology companies can offer, and Microsoft's thoughtful planning and nurturing of this project ensures our schools will benefit for years to come. SIIA is proud to now assume the ongoing responsibility for this important step in education technology."
More than 55 companies are members of SIF. Any K-12 education software vendor or educational institution that is committed to improving interoperability among diverse software applications and to supporting these specifications in future products is invited to participate.
"Microsoft is involved in a number of industry initiatives, but SIF has been an especially meaningful project for us because of its great potential to help schools," said Bob Herbold, Microsoft's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "With its longstanding leadership in the educational software industry, SIIA is uniquely positioned to drive SIF forward. SIIA will bring together players from across the software industry and ensure that the SIF vision of empowering educators to build powerful technology foundations is fully realized."
With the public availability of the Preliminary Interoperability Specification version 1.0, educators, vendors, districts, and state and federal agencies can review and provide feedback on whether the specification addresses their data-sharing needs until Jan. 30, 2000. In addition, software vendors can deploy SIF in their applications, and school districts can apply to be SIF pilot sites.
Two school districts, Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minneapolis and Ballston Spa Central School District in Ballston Spa, N.Y., are the first pilot sites for the new specification and already are reaping the benefits of having systems that can "talk" to each other, reducing errors and redundant data entry while increasing efficiency and access to information.
"The idea that our student information database can communicate with our transportation database is a wish come true," said Jayson Crair, database manager and guidance counselor at Ballston Spa. "Schools are notorious for duplication and redundancy. SIF is making our district a much more efficient and effective operation."
Patrick Plant, technology director at Anoka-Hennepin, recalls when the SIF pilot was first discussed in his district. "We felt like it was a necessary and critical step forward. For educators to make meaningful progress in improving student achievement, we will need to have more accurate, time-sensitive information accessible for teachers to make better decisions about a student's educational needs."
The Software & Information Industry Association is the principal trade association of the software code and information content industry. SIIA represents more than 1,400 leading high-tech companies that develop and market software and digital content for education, business, consumers and the Internet. For more information, visit SIIA's Web site at http://www.siia.net/ .
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