By: Steven G. Ezikian, MSBO President, Deputy Superintendent, Wayne RESA
(Note the majority of the content of this article was gleaned from two reports issued by The Michigan Data Hub/MAISA: The Michigan Data Hub: A Strategic Alignment and ROI Study and MiDataHub, legislative Report, January 2018)
Based on the number of time that I have heard mention of the Michigan Data Hub, I would guess most of you have heard of it as well. I am also guessing like me, you have a hazy idea of what it is and why it is. You may even be in a bit of a panic, because your district has been asked to consider signing the Data Hub Hosting agreement and your superintendent has asked for your input. If that is you, I hope the information contained in this article helps you get a better grasp of what the Data Hub is and why it may be important for your district to be a part of it.
At its core, The Michigan Data Hub simply and dramatically reduces the number of integrations (connections to move data between data systems) that are created and managed by Michigan schools. This has the potential to reduce from tens of thousands of redundantly created and managed integrations to less than one hundred centrally managed on behalf of all of Michigan’s local and charter public schools.
Most Michigan school districts are putting instructional and operational support systems in place to deliver better education to students and more efficiently support operational requirements. As they do so, their system connections and potential system connections grow ever more complex. The median district spends around $71,500 to build and maintain connections per year, with some districts spending over $500,000 each year. This is just to maintain connections between two different systems. Districts report needing nearly twice as many connections as they currently have, identifying an average of 9.2 needed connections not yet in place per district.
There have been many attempts to solve this issue over the years. In 2012, planning was started on the Technology Readiness Infrastructure Grant (TRIG), which included a data integration project. Armed with a more collaborative process that leveraged data experts statewide, a dedicated project manager, and a toolkit with newly formed national data standards from the Ed-Fi Alliance, the MiDataHub concept was born and quickly began to gain support. The resulting Michigan Data Hub (MiDataHub) has exceeded the progress of all the preceding efforts, establishing a functional, reliable, secure, and scalable infrastructure that is beginning to deliver on the promise of interoperability.
Local control, data security, and data privacy are fundamental. Districts are firmly in control of their own data. A district’s data integration capability is disabled until its superintendent, or their proxy, electronically signs a data hosting agreement (DHA), which spells out the terms and conditions of using the system. The DHA is important in that it serves as a single, statewide agreement that is consistent for all districts, addresses the issue of liability, and provides guidelines and restrictions for those who access MiDataHub on behalf of the districts. The guidelines include maintaining Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) protection of data, ensuring encryption at rest and in transit, identifying that the district remains the owner of the data, and that the data cannot be disclosed to anyone without consent.
Once the agreement is signed, the district can then create a variety of inbound, outbound, and system integrations. All integrations are protected by industry standard encryption. All web-traffic is encrypted with secure socket layer (SSL) encryption. Inbound and outbound integrations will utilize SSL as well as secure file.
So far 342 districts state-wide have accepted the data hosting agreement. There is no cost to local districts to join or use the data hub. You can learn more about the benefits of the Michigan Data Hub by going to their website.