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Dear LEA Administrators, Businesses Managers and Data Specialists:

I am writing you today to address the concerns and frustrations that have been voiced regarding the transition of Local Education Agencies (LEAs) from Arizona’s outdated education data system (SAIS) to the new data system (AzEDS). With this communication, I want to assure you that there is nothing more important to me than seeing all LEAs completely and accurately paid on time next school year.

At the direction of the legislature in 2011, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) first began the process of replacing SAIS. As you know, the goal of the replacement was to sunset an antiquated and error-riddled data system and install AzEDS, a more accurate, efficient, and transparent system. The transition for all LEAs from SAIS to AzEDS was supposed to occur July 1, 2015, but ADE decided to postpone it a year so that your teams could continue to adjust to a new system.

The timeline available here details the efforts invested into the carefully-executed transition from SAIS to AzEDS.

As with any major technological transition, whether it is at Apple or ADE, there is an adjustment period. However, it is critical to understand that moving all LEAs to AzEDS by June 30, 2016 is beneficial both long-term and immediately both for LEAs and students.

Not only does ADE not have the resources to run SAIS and AzEDS simultaneously, but with 64 percent of all LEAs already transitioned to AzEDS, we are too far down the implementation path to stop the transition now.

With AzEDS, Arizona is in a far better position now compared to where it was during its transition to SAIS. Many of you may recall that SAIS took two years to implement, and although there were far more serious problems with that transition, all schools received payments.

While we realize you are understandably anxious about the AzEDS implementation, our third-party, independent auditor, WestEd/CELT, recently provided ADE an outstanding review (see their statement here). They expressed confidence in the progress already made and recognized that our implementation and data system are positioning the state as a national leader in technological data infrastructure.

Concerns With SAIS
Many LEAs are concerned when comparing the two systems because the data in SAIS and AzEDS do not match. The data does not match for two reasons:
  1. The main issue with the transition is the inability of SAIS to process data that is currently being submitted from AzEDS to SAIS, which leads to the missing and inaccurate data that many LEAs have reported. This is not the result of inaccuracies within AzEDS. Imagine attempting to transfer all the information on an iPhone 6s to a rotary phone; that is the equivalent of attempting to move data from AzEDS to SAIS. AzEDS can process two million transactions per day, whereas it takes SAIS an entire day just to upload one large district’s data.
  1. AzEDS is a superior, real-time system that fully aligns with your student information systems. It is both quicker and statutorily more accurate than SAIS; therefore, the data in the two systems will never match. The business rules that are the foundation upon which AzEDS was built have been reviewed and tested, whereas SAIS’ rules have not been examined or changed in more than a decade and cannot be modified. If the data did match, then the decision to construct a new system would have proven unnecessary.
A comparison chart that illustrates in detail the main differences between the two systems can be found here.

Current-Year Funding
ADE has been receiving feedback that intertwines the transition to AzEDS and the move to current-year funding for traditional districts, which are two completely separate initiatives. The agency is addressing both issues separately as current-year funding is not directly applicable to the SAIS-to-AzEDS process.

While I appreciate the concerns expressed by stakeholder organizations, I want to reiterate that this transition will not harm schools regardless of the obstacles that may arise. I have complete confidence that LEAs will be paid appropriately and in a timely manner.

I realize that this transition has both financial and technological implications and that it can be painful to adjust to an unknown system. However, ADE has now reached a tipping point that would make it impossible to delay the implementation of AzEDS and maintain SAIS for another year. As a result, remaining on SAIS beyond July 1, 2016 would be both irresponsible and potentially destructive to the best interests of both your schools and, most importantly, our students.

Mark Masterson
Arizona Department of Education CIO

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