Assembly was set up to help the education sector use data more effectively - and our flagship service for education technology organisations is the Assembly Platform. Our platform can extract data from 98% of school MIS and pass it on to our partners in a neat, standardised format through our API, making it super-simple to access essential school data.
We focus on making Assembly work for partners who have a school improvement purpose, so curriculum and assessment are particularly big areas for us. We therefore thought it would be useful to lay out a few of the reasons that these great products choose to benefit from an Assembly connection.
First, it’s worth making clear that in our view, school data is not a commodity. When people first choose to connect to school MIS, they may (understandably) assume that the data they’ll be accessing will be pretty much the same, regardless of the school or integration service they choose. Unfortunately, that’s a very long way from the truth. Even seemingly basic requests - getting a student’s maths group, for example - can be devilishly hard to handle reliably without deep sector knowledge. So the way you build your integration - and the partner you choose to assist you - will have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your product.
With that in mind, here are some features of Assembly that make life so much easier for assessment products when they choose to work with us.
We turn national assessment data into easy-to-access scopes. If you work in the world of assessment, there’s a high chance that you’ll want to access SATs or GCSE exam data at some point. For example, if you’re a secondary maths app, KS2 SATs results could be useful to help you provide analysis on the performance of high, medium and low attainers. Or if you’re an assessment tracker, national assessment data could be an important companion to any internal assessment data you’re helping the school to generate. However, such data is often hidden in obscure places in a school MIS, so Assembly does a load of work to turn the raw data from the MIS into special, standardised “National Assessments” scopes, structured by key stage, subject and even assessment type. That means whichever MIS a school is using, you can find the data in the same place and format on our API. You won’t find assessment data curated like this anywhere else - so if you think you’ll need to access national assessment data from the MIS at any point, you’ll want to talk to us.
We can tell you a student’s registration AND teaching groups. Most edtech products need to subdivide student lists into class groupings of some sort. Registration groups are relatively easy to access, since most MIS provide this data in a neat, well-structured form. However, subject groupings (which we call Teaching Groups) are far trickier. A school creates these in the MIS, but there are no standardised codes for doing so within a given MIS. Consequently, most methods of accessing these groupings will look like a firehose of random codes. However, Assembly has spent years building up knowledge of commonly occurring school subject codes across different MIS, and we use these to default-map MIS data to our standardised teaching groups wherever possible. Then, for edge-cases, we allow a school to adjust these mappings in our platform. That means you can (for example) make a call to our API for all year 8 maths teaching groups, safe in the knowledge that you’ll always be accessing the correct lists of students.
We’ve open-sourced our data model so you can reuse it however you wish. Assessment is complicated, and in our experience, people building products that handle assessment data can agonise over how to structure the data in a usable and future-proofed format. So to help, we’ve open-sourced our data model, including all the assessment components. That means that if you want to refer to - or just copy wholesale - our data structure, you can! And if you’re unsure why any aspect of it looks the way it does, just get in touch: we’re always happy to talk it through...
We don’t just offer MIS data; we can move data between partners too! Increasingly, schools are using - and reusing - data generated outside the MIS. For example, a school may use a standardised assessment product to benchmark their performance reliably against other schools around the country. So we’ve evolved Assembly to allow partners to send data back to us in a way that makes it available to others (provided they have suitable permissions, of course), and also allows us to feed the data into our own analytics tools. Companies like No More Marking, an innovative writing assessment tool, are already using this functionality.
We provide deep and reliable access to attendance and exclusions data. We can give year-to-date access to attendance and exclusions data - and we regularly refresh what we hold to ensure that it’s accurate, even if a school has made updates to historical data. This can provide incredibly useful context when used alongside assessment data in your school improvement product!
We add logical groupings on top of MIS data wherever this might augment analysis. For example, inclusion professionals increasingly choose to analyse school performance metrics by SEND “areas of broad need”, rather than just looking at the detailed code, or whether a student is “SEN” or “non-SEN”. Areas of broad need aren’t stored in the MIS anywhere, but because we know the mappings (contained in the DfE's SEND code of practice), we can create these groupings from the available data. We do the same in areas like ethnicity, where the MIS has the low-level code, but we create the high level grouping so data can be analysed by the seven standard top-level groups, rather than 100 individual codes.
We’re also structuring MIS assessment data. If you’ve ever played around with assessment data as it’s stored in the MIS, you’ll know it can be a bit of a free-for-all. For good reasons, MIS vendors leave this bit of the product to be highly customisable by schools, but that does mean that it’s hard for an outsider to make sense of what’s stored there. Assembly is addressing this by building mapping features within our platform to link a school’s assessment data to a standard model. (NOTE: this is still in private beta, so let us know if you’d like to discuss how you can benefit from this functionality.)
For a consultation on how Assembly can work for you, please get in touch. And of course, if you have ideas for assessment-friendly features that we haven’t mentioned here, we’d love to hear from you!