PIMS and PDE and Data! Oh My!

You may have heard about PIMS, the newly hatched Pennsylvania Information Management System. In a nutshell, PIMS is a massive reporting tool designed to streamline the hundreds of state reports districts are required to submit every school year. PIMS is also slated to replace the DRC precode extraction that drives our PSSA Booklets and data reports. Several years in the making, PIMS data reporting is now required for all PA districts. Here’s the scoop:

The first phase of the PIMS project began last year with the PASecureID initiative. PASecureID is a framework and data system that asked districts to assign a unique and permanent ID number for each of the 1.8 million public school students in the Commonwealth. During the SecureID assignment stage, each Penn Manor student received an individual PA ID number that will travel with the child across grade levels and across school districts. Think of it as a student ID number that follows the student regardless of district or grade level. The net result of the SecureID assignment was to essentially create a new (non social security) ID number that will always exist independent of a local district student ID number.

With the assignment of permanent SecureID numbers to all PA students behind us, the full PIMS system could be implemented. Fast forward to summer 2007- Penn Manor was lucky to find it’s way into the beta program for PIMS. Since July, we’ve been working with PDE and K12 Systems to develop the student information system file extractions that are to be uploaded to the master PIMS database. PDE started with 4 required data extractions: Student, Student Snapshot, Program Facts and Enrollment. Overall, the Enrollment and Program Facts extractions haven’t been too much trouble. The Student/Student Snapshot extract are another matter entirely.

The Student/Student Snapshot extract contains over 100 data elements. Each PDE data element is mapped to a particular field in the Sapphire Student Information System. Long story short, the programming changes to Sapphire encompassed a ginormous amount of time and energy. To accommodate PDE’s new rules, K12 was in many ways forced to modify large areas of the Sapphire System. Those of us who are in the core Sapphire SIS on a daily basis have seen some of the changes while other modifications were made under-the-hood and became largely transparent to end-users. Additionally, the new PIMS data collection rules are having a big impact on building office staff because many of required data fields have historically never been tracked or maintained.

Next up on the PIMS horizon for the 2007-08 school year is a revamp of faculty data reporting, student attendance, student courses and district “facts” templates. Core student reporting will be done 4 times per year along side these additional new templates. Bottom line? The new PIMS system will certainly continue to swallow up a great deal of district time and energy resources for the foreseeable future.