Dreaming of Data: Why K–12 Needs More Analytics

The opportunity to measure, improve and affect change is all in the data.

In enterprises and the federal government, the topic that’s all the rage these days is Big Data. The ability and the power to capture, store and analyze data to make informed decisions has many in those sectors dreaming of highly efficient, expertly tuned organizations.

But the trend is moving at a much slower pace when it comes to K–12 education.

In a post on his There Is No Box blog (one of EdTech: Focus on K–12’s Must-Read IT Blogs), Andrew Schwab, an IT manager in the Berryessa Union School District in San Jose, Calif., highlighted how different his data resources are in a K–12 environment compared with his previous job at the printing company Quebecor World.

At Quebecor’s Merced, Calif., plant, Schwab had access to a rich dashboard that showed real-time performance and allowed for on-the-fly adjustments.

We have data in education too. It’s not real time and it hardly ever gets used to impact current performance, but we do have it. Since coming over to K12, I’ve often wondered why we don’t have dashboards for data in schools.

Real time readouts with learning metrics, attendance stats, facilities conditions in one simple view for every principal to see. And similar dashboards for teachers, with all of a student’s performance data displayed in easy to read graphs and charts. Unfortunately I’ve never had the resources of Programmers in K12 to delve into the concept.

Schwab’s point that he doesn’t have access to programmers at the K–12 level is a key point. This lack of software development resources is why so many schools seek turnkey solutions for things such as mobile apps.

But not having an army of software engineers doesn’t mean data-driven solutions can’t be rolled out in K–12 schools.

Oregon is leading the way with its innovative approach to data analysis, according to a report from OregonLive.

The state is one of seven that the Data Quality Campaign has lauded for its achievements in using data to transform education.

Teachers and administrators in the state harness data to track student performance, and “the state is one of the few that's compiled compelling evidence that its data-using prowess is leading to higher student achievement.”

According to the DQC, schools participating in the Oregon DATA project were able to close achievement gaps in reading and math.

Recently, EdTech: Focus on K–12 profiled school districts in North Carolina, Georgia and Utah that were succeeding with groundbreaking Big Data initiatives.

It’s important to note that while optimization and efficiency are the incentives for leveraging data in the enterprise, in K–12 it’s all about providing a more customized, personalized learning experience.

“To individualize learning is really to customize learning for each child so he or she has a unique experience that [suits his or her precise] learning needs,” said Valerie Truesdale, chief information and transformation officer for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina. “Technology increases the possibilities for customization.”

Anatoliy Babiy/ThinkStock
Nov 24 2013

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