students. From the legislative point of view, the department's Web site will improve accountability by showing the state what it's getting -- or not getting -- for its investment. "We'll be able to see what methods of teaching and curriculum are most effective, if programs are having an impact, etc. That's data that wouldn't be easily understood, or even available, prior to the report cards."

Meanwhile, school administrators will use the system to formulate long-term strategies and spot downward trends before they become serious problems. If one school in the state performs excellently, other schools can easily emulate the methods. Parents can use the system to choose the best school for their children. If a school is performing poorly, communities can organize to make changes.

"Few factors have greater impact on student performance than parent and community involvement," said Luikart. "For this reason, providing information to parents and community members in an interactive environment is important. We want them to understand what questions to ask of teachers, administrators and students; to look for areas of strength and weakness and to understand them so they can make informed decisions. Ohio is a local-control state, so there is a great emphasis on local decision-making. Having the information on the Web gives people a basis on which to ask those kinds of questions."

Rob Silverman of MicroStrategy Inc., one of the ODE's partners, said the ODE is one of the few organizations to realize that providing interactive information over the Web can help build a bond with constituents and deliver better service. "This is an organization that's using technology in a way that really adds value to the public," Silverman said. "It is one of the pioneers in doing so."

With their interactive report cards in place, the department is already looking to take the data warehouse to the next level. Plans include making financial and program information available electronically. "It will be interesting to see how providing this kind of information and this kind of tool unfolds and how it might influence activities in the future," said Luikart. "This is just the beginning of a trend in government and education of moving information into a forum where the public can actually use it."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Justine Kavanaugh-Brown is editor in chief of California Computer News, a Government Technology sister publication. E-mail