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Since the mid 1980s, the Florida Department of Education (DOE) has collected student, staff, and workforce data and used it to guide program development and funding. As data volumes grew, so did demand for the data—from teachers, administrators, legislators, and parents. To provide constituents with secure access to confidential student data, the DOE created a Web portal called Sunshine Connections using Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007. It then worked with Microsoft Services to create a robust identity infrastructure using Active Directory® Federation Services and Microsoft software for security and identity management. Easy, secure access to student data helps teachers improve their teaching and leads to improved administrative decisions. The simple logon process encourages teachers to explore the data, and the familiarity of the infrastructure makes the site easy to maintain.
Microsoft Infrastructure Optimization Customer Solution Case Study Florida Gives Teachers Secure Online Access to Terabytes of Student Data Overview ―A solid security infrastructure is a critical prerequisite Country or Region: United States Industry: Government—Regional/state to making this valuable data available online to teachers … who can use it to improve teaching and Customer Profile The Florida Department of Education (DOE) make better decisions.‖ supplies support and services to the more Jeff Sellers, Acting Deputy Commissioner, Division of Accountability, Research, and Measurement, than 2.6 million students, 180,000 Florida Department of Education teachers, and 3,800 public schools in Florida. Since the mid 1980s, the Florida Department of Education (DOE) has collected student, staff, and workforce data and used it to Business Situation The DOE wanted to provide an easy, secure guide program development and funding. As data volumes grew, so way to give teachers, legislators, and other did demand for the data—from teachers, administrators, legislators, stakeholders online access to the terabytes of student data collected since 1984. and parents. To provide constituents with secure access to confidential student data, the DOE created a Web portal called Solution The department built a portal using Sunshine Connections using Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007. It then worked with Microsoft Services to create a robust 2007, and used Active Directory® Domain Services and Active Directory Federation identity infrastructure using Active Directory® Federation Services Services to secure the site. and Microsoft software for security and identity management. Easy, Benefits secure access to student data helps teachers improve their Simple, secure access to student data teaching and leads to improved administrative decisions. The Easy logon for data sharing Adaptable to changing needs simple logon process encourages teachers to explore the data, and Lower operational costs the familiarity of the infrastructure makes the site easy to maintain. ―It was our Situation from the K-12, state college, and university The Florida Department of Education (DOE) databases using Oracle database software understanding that administers prekindergarten through twelfth and reporting tools. The idea was to use Oracle was one of the grade and state college (PK-20) public these tools to enable many more people education in the state of Florida and supports beyond the DOE IT staff to securely analyze better enterprise more than 2.6 million students, more than this wealth of data. databases, but the 180,000 teachers, 318,000 full-time staff, and 3,800 schools. The DOE is based in However, the DOE had limited success with Oracle reporting tools Tallahassee, Florida, and has 1,255 full-time Oracle. ―It was our understanding that Oracle were not able to handle employees. was one of the better enterprise databases, but the Oracle reporting tools were not able that much data.‖ Since the mid 1980s, the Florida DOE has to handle that much data,‖ says Jeff Sellers, Jeff Sellers, Acting Deputy Commissioner, been collecting staff and student-level data Acting Deputy Commissioner of the Division Division of Accountability, Research, and from the state’s 67 school districts, including of Accountability, Research, and Measurement, Florida Department of student demographics, courses taken and Measurement for the Florida Department of Education completed, attendance, transcripts, and Education. ―The Oracle software was also more. The state maintains a similar database difficult to use.‖ for its state college system. The intent was to use this data as a basis for making better The DOE envisioned opening up its data decisions about administering and funding warehouse to constituents over a Web-based education programs in the state, to track portal. Sellers anticipated that the Oracle progress as students move through the reporting foundation would not be suitable for system, and to comply with state and federal such a move because of the challenges reporting requirements. related to performance, complexity, and security that he had encountered. The data has been stored in IBM DB2 databases on a mainframe computer since Even though the DOE development team had inception, and a programming staff uses not identified replacement reporting COBOL and other mainframe programming technologies for the site, it began building the languages to manually write reports from the public portal in 2004. Working with data. This report-writing process is laborious Microsoft® Services and the Microsoft and limits the constituents that the DOE can Learning Group, the DOE used Microsoft serve to a select few state administrators. Office SharePoint® Portal Server 2003 to create a statewide teacher resource portal As the data volumes grew, so did the number that it called Sunshine Connections of people who wanted access to this data. (www.sunshineconnections.org). Sunshine Educators, legislators, teachers, researchers, Connections provided Florida educators with and even parents wanted access to the classroom management tools, instructional student data that Florida had accumulated— strategies, curricular materials, and even more data than any other state in the professional development opportunities. country; many states are just beginning to capture this kind of educational data. By Sunshine Connections still needed a 2000, Florida had collected terabytes of reporting foundation that was easier to use, education data and was adding 100 and a highly secure identity management gigabytes a year. To broaden access to its infrastructure before DOE could use it to educational data, the DOE contracted with a share its confidential student performance vendor in 2000 to create a data warehouse data. ―Federal regulations such as the U.S. ―Active be able ―We willDirectory to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act organizations to extend their Active Directory [FERPA] place tight strictures on how student accounts outside their boundaries, to Federation Services redeploy our staff from data is handled, accessed, and shared,‖ authorized partners. Using Active Directory writing SQL Server gave districts with Sellers says. ―We had to ensure that teachers Federation Services, the DOE was able to very could only see education data for students in securely and broadly grant access to queries to designing and existing Active Directory their class and that only authorized users Sunshine Connections data. building data marts and setups access to could view relevant data.‖ ―Active Directory Federation Services gave creating BI tools for use Sunshine Connections districts with existing Active Directory setups using their existing on Sunshine Solution access to Sunshine Connections using their In 2007, after a lengthy pilot, the DOE turned existing logons,‖ Sellers says. ―They can also logons.‖ Connections.‖ to Microsoft Services for help in building the manage their Sunshine Connections access Jeff Sellers, Acting Deputy Commissioner, reporting, identity, and security infrastructure locally using existing Group Policy settings.‖ Division of Accountability, Research, and for Sunshine Connections. The DOE decided For school districts that do not have an Active Measurement, Florida Department of to upgrade Sunshine Connections to Directory service, the DOE generates Active Education Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Directory accounts for them. use that software’s business intelligence (BI) capabilities as the site’s reporting foundation. Microsoft Services used Microsoft Identity It augmented those capabilities with the rich Lifecycle Manager 2007 to manage user reporting capabilities in the Microsoft SQL accounts by providing identity Server® 2005 data management software, synchronization, certificate management, and which stores the data after it’s transferred user provisioning from a single console. It from the Oracle data warehouse. The DOE also used Microsoft Internet Security & used SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services to Acceleration Server 2006 as an edge security create interactive Web-based and printed gateway. This software serves as the main reports; SQL Server Analysis Services to firewall for Sunshine Connections and also perform data mining on the warehouse; and helps secure all content and applications for will soon use Microsoft Office remote access. The DOE also used Microsoft PerformancePoint® Server 2007 business Forefront™ Security for SharePoint to scan intelligence software to glean insights from portal documents for viruses and unwanted its data warehouse. (nonbusiness-related) content. As for identity infrastructure, the DOE had The state’s 67 school districts can upload deployed the Active Directory® service as its data to Sunshine Connections nightly. Active directory structure, and many larger school Directory Federation Services helps secure districts, such as Miami-Dade, also had Active this process and simplifies access to the Directory–based account structures. To take state database. advantage of this investment, Sellers decided to use the latest Microsoft identity and With a more secure identity infrastructure in security solutions to secure Sunshine place, Sunshine Connections is now Connections. organized into two sections: a public area that provides free teacher tools and Microsoft Services used Active Directory nonconfidential aggregated data to anyone Federation Services in the Windows Server® who wants it, and a restricted area that 2008 operating system to give all users provides teachers and administrators with access to data on Sunshine Connections. confidential tools and information specific to Active Directory Federation Services enables their school and students. The DOE has ―Using data on Sunshine designed the identity infrastructure to the requirements of FERPA and other federal authenticate users based on their Active and state laws that mandate complete Connections, legislators Directory role and to authorize them based on confidentiality of student data,‖ Sellers says. and school the relevance of data to their role. ―A solid security infrastructure is a critical prerequisite to making this valuable data administrators can For example, the security system ascertains available online to teachers, administrators, better determine where that an individual is teaching a particular and other stakeholders who can use it to child before granting access to data about improve teaching and make better decisions to make [budget] cuts that child. ―Data access is all role-based,‖ about education in Florida.‖ and how to most Sellers says. ―A teacher can only see information about the students in their class, Using the BI tools that the DOE has made effectively use the or current students’ previous performance. available on the site, teachers can compare remaining funds.‖ Administrators can only see information on students’ performance in a single class or students in their schools.‖ one student’s performance over time. Jeff Sellers, Acting Deputy Commissioner, Schools can compare and review subjects Division of Accountability, Research, and The DOE runs Sunshine Connections on 40 across grade levels, reading scores from Measurement, Florida Department of Dell PowerEdge servers, and is evaluating the 2002 to the present, and many other metrics. Education use of Microsoft System Center Operations Administrators and legislators can run all Manager 2007 to help monitor those servers. sorts of reports to determine which programs work and where additional funding is required. ―With the current state of the Benefits national economy, Florida had to slash more With the secure, easy-to-use identity and than $1 billion from its education budget,‖ security infrastructure for Sunshine Sellers says. ―Using data on Sunshine Connections, the Florida Department of Connections, legislators and school Education is able to offer thousands of users administrators can better determine where to secure online access to terabytes of student- make those cuts and how to most effectively level data. Rapid access to years of use the remaining funds.‖ performance data helps teachers improve instruction and gives administrators and By democratizing performance data, the DOE legislators the data they need to make also gives teachers and districts the ability to informed policy decisions about educational analyze and act on their own data, before resources. Easy logon encourages more someone else does it for them. ―In education frequent data sharing, and the flexible as in business, the more information you infrastructure makes it easier to have, the better the decisions you can make,‖ accommodate changes. Finally, the cost Sellers says. ―Our schools want the effectiveness of Microsoft software saved opportunity to evaluate and improve their Florida money in implementing the solution. performance before critics take them to task for nonperformance.‖ Secure Online Access to Confidential Student Data Easy Logon that Encourages Data By outfitting Sunshine Connections with a Sharing robust and more secure identity and security The DOE does not mandate the frequency infrastructure, the DOE can open its with which school districts upload data to confidential data stores to potentially millions Sunshine Connections, nor can it mandate of users over the Web. ―With this security that teachers use the site. It can only make it infrastructure in place, we can safely meet easy to upload the data and use the site, and ―By making it so easy for it can provide the assurance that the data is The flexibility of the underlying Office extremely safe, to encourage use. SharePoint Server 2007 and Active Directory districts to log on and ―Simplifying the logon procedure is one way architecture enables the DOE to respond to share data using tools to encourage more frequent data uploads,‖ changing needs. ―The Florida legislature, the Sellers says. ―And providing users with the governor, and others throughout the they already know, assurance that only authorized persons will government have changing needs, and often we’ve made it view the data helps us get participation from funds aren’t available to respond to these additional districts,‖ Sellers says. ―There are changing requirements,‖ Sellers says. ―That’s workable.‖ serious repercussions for violating FERPA, so why it helps to have an infrastructure based school districts need the assurance that on Microsoft software that is cost effective to Jeff Sellers, Acting Deputy Commissioner, Sunshine Connection is highly secure.‖ modify.‖ Division of Accountability, Research, and Measurement, Florida Department of By extending its identity and security Lower Operational Costs Education infrastructure to the 67 districts, the DOE By giving its many constituents a way to self- gives them a flexible way to log on to service their own information needs, the Sunshine Connection without any work on Florida Department of Education will reduce their part. ―We provide and maintain Active reporting labor. ―We will be able to redeploy Directory accounts if they don’t already have our staff from writing SQL Server queries to them,‖ Sellers says. ―We also provide designing and building data marts and administrative tools that they can use to creating BI tools for use on Sunshine change, add, and delete accounts. By making Connections,‖ Sellers says. it so easy for districts to log on and share data using tools they already know, we’ve made it workable.‖ Adaptable to Changing Needs The DOE still receives data requests all the time, from all manner of constituents. The IT staff is working on mechanisms by which any authorized user can request data through Office SharePoint Server 2007 workflows and get what they need on the portal, without manual intervention from DOE staff. For More Information Microsoft Infrastructure Optimization For more information about Microsoft With infrastructure optimization, you can products and services, call the Microsoft build a secure, well-managed, and dynamic Sales Information Center at (800) 426- core IT infrastructure that can reduce overall 9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft IT costs, make better use of resources, and Canada Information Centre at (877) 568- become a strategic asset for the business. 2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of- The Infrastructure Optimization model—with hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone basic, standardized, rationalized, and (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in dynamic levels—was developed by Microsoft the United States or (905) 568-9641 in using industry best practices and Microsoft’s Canada. Outside the 50 United States and own experiences with enterprise customers. Canada, please contact your local The Infrastructure Optimization model Microsoft subsidiary. To access information provides a maturity framework that is flexible using the World Wide Web, go to: and easily used as a benchmark for technical www.microsoft.com capability and business value. For more information about Florida For more information about Microsoft Department of Education services, call infrastructure optimization, go to: (850) 245-0505 or visit the Web site at: www.microsoft.com/io www.fldoe.org Software and Services Technologies Microsoft Server Product Portfolio − Active Directory Domain Services − Windows Server 2008 − Active Directory Federation Services − Microsoft Forefront Security for − Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Analysis SharePoint Services − Microsoft Internet Security & − Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Reporting Acceleration Server 2006 Services − Microsoft Identity Lifecycle Manager Services 2007 − Microsoft Services − Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Microsoft Office Hardware − Microsoft Office PerformancePoint 40 Dell PowerEdge servers Server 2007 − Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. Document published June 2009
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