For Jerry Lashley, Director of The Texas Education Exchange, beginning Beta development is the outcome of a 5-year personal journey.
One thing is clear based on my experience over the last 16 years working in Texas education - schools struggle with a lack of data interoperability.
Five years ago, when I joined Region 4 Education Service Center, I put that learning into action, identifying an opportunity to help our Local Education Agencies (LEAs) struggling to integrate TxEIS, now ASCENDER, into their data ecosystems by offering Ed-Fi and its hallmark interoperability as a service. Putting on my entrepreneurial hat, I realized I was thinking small. Every Region 4 LEA and their Student Information System (SIS) providers could benefit from the interoperability Ed-Fi offered. I shared the idea with some trusted colleagues and they challenged me further - could Region 4 make it a statewide initiative? Could we bring Ed-Fi to Texas to benefit all our LEAs?
The key to moving our idea forward was creating connections. I attended my first Ed-Fi Summit four years ago, seeking expertise and examples I could learn from, and sharing my early ideas. At the Summit, I connected with the Michigan Data Hub, a collaborative, statewide effort to address challenges in using and managing school data. A few weeks later I was on a plane to Michigan with my Region 4 Technology Director. We spent our time together learning about what the Michigan team was doing, how they were spreading the word and getting buy-in, and most importantly hearing from them, first-hand, about lessons learned. We came home to Texas convinced that bringing Ed-Fi to the state was our solution.
Community and partnership have been our guiding principles for the past four years. From the Ed-Fi Alliance to Texas Education Service Centers (ESCs) and Texas Education Agency (TEA) to our technical partners like Education Analytics, and Amazon Web Services, The Exchange has grown from an idea to a reality.
I began gauging interest with regions. Like Region 4, ESCs from Regions 10 (Dallas), 11 (Fort Worth), 13 (Austin), and 20 (San Antonio) had been looking for Ed-Fi solutions and developing Ed-Fi products for their LEAs in response to strong demand. This group of five founding ESCs agreed to help steer and advise our idea, and the Texas Education Exchange Collaborative was born.
The TEA has been a tremendous partner. About a year and a half ago, TEA heard that we were looking to offer a statewide data solution leveraging Ed-Fi, so we put our heads together to devise a successful partnership. In its partner role, TEA provided significant seed funding for us to build an ed-tech company, The Texas Education Exchange (The Exchange) to serve our school districts. TEA has also marshaled a team of its own staff dedicated to supporting the design and development of The Exchange.
There are endless ideas and many thought leaders centered on making Texas a better place for everyone in education. The Exchange provides a data solution for those concepts to materialize and be shared throughout the state. Today, The Exchange is in its Beta year of development. Ten LEAs are helping to inform and test data tools that will help educators reveal insights to bolster student success. We are building for the future.
Jerry Lashley is the Director of The Texas Education Exchange. He brings expertise in technology and operations, honed over a 16-year career in public education.