Identify the Certifications Applicable to Your Architecture
Agencies are encouraged to ask for their technology provider products to be Ed-Fi certified; however, agencies should first understand their needs sufficiently to request specific vendors be certified on specific Ed-Fi Alliance certifications. Note that there are many areas with no applicable Ed-Fi certification. Hence, specific knowledgeable requests are much more likely to be successful and serviceable than blanket ambiguous ones.
The Ed-Fi Alliance has published a "Ed-Fi Model RFP" in the Ed-Fi Exchange that may assist agencies with procurement language:
What is Covered in Certification?
Ed-Fi Certification is a technical verification that a vendor system conforms to an Ed-Fi API standard. By "conform" we mean that the vendor system:
- Demonstrates it has implemented an API standard or can communicate with (as a client) an implementation of the API across all API resources and fields marked as "required" in the API specification
- Meets all of the "must" requirements listed in the API specification
- Meets all of the "must" requirements of the certification
What is Not Covered?
Ed-Fi certification does not cover these elements of a vendor implementation:
- Under what conditions the certified functionality is made available to the vendor's customers. For example, this would include if the certified functionality:
- Requires additional installations or product maintenance
- Comes with license fees or other costs
- Is available only in certain geographies
- If the product has multiple editions, what editions of the product the certified functionality is available in. The Registry of Ed-Fi Certified Products, however, does record which product edition and version the vendor used to meet the certification testing. Those wanting to procure this functionality are advised to reference that version if necessary.
Certification's Approach to Data Semantics
Ed-Fi data exchange standards cover not only serialization and transport of data, but also the meaning of the data. This is critical to the Ed-Fi community mission of enabling seamless exchange of complex and diverse data in K–12 to improve student performance.
Accordingly, Ed-Fi certification validates that elements in the certified system sent via API conform to data definitions in Ed-Fi API specifications. Those specifications in turn draw their vocabularies from the applicable the Ed-Fi Data Handbook (see Unifying Data Model - v2.0 Handbook or Unifying Data Model - v3.0 Handbook).
Mapping data elements and measuring semantic conformance of mappings are by their very nature acts of interpretation, so certification is unable to guarantee 100% consistency in the translation of semantics from a source to target system across an API interface. Those who are concerned about this element of certification are invited to consult the Requirements - Testing Requirements, which cover semantic translations that are permitted and those which are not-permitted.
Does Certification Guarantee "Plug-and-play" Interoperability?
Without faithful implementation of standardized data exchange patterns — which certification tests — interoperability at scale will never be achieved. However, while such conformance may be required, it is not in itself sufficient to guarantee interoperability.
Many environmental factors can interfere with system interoperability. Certification does not and cannot validate all the various ancillary elements necessary to seamless flow of data between systems. It cannot, for example, validate that solutions have the required infrastructure resources, or that vendors develop and maintain APIs using best practice so as to minimize bugs that can be very real issues in system-to-system communications.
Certification also cannot account for the vast amount of customization and localized business logic often inserted into product implementations, often as local customizations. In many cases even the meaning or value of an element may depend on local and configurable business logic. Attendance is a good example: is a student who misses the first period of the school day counted as being in attendance? For some schools, yes, and for others, no; others may say the student was "tardy." Ed-Fi certification can only test that the vendor system can transmit attendance values, but can't validate the business logic used to make semantic determinations, and whether those determinations (i.e., the default logic in the student information system) are accurate for a particular local context.
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