K–12 schools are evolving their use of data analytics tools as pedagogies such as personalized learning focus on more immediate feedback and the “whole student.”
“We need the data that will help us make better, faster decisions,” said Cathy Cavanaugh, principal program manager for learning research and analytics at Microsoft, in a Jan. 29 workshop at the Future of Education Technology Conference. “We want to do what we can and make the right decisions to affect trends moving in the right direction.”
This means schools will need to reassess the data they choose to collect to find the best measurements to help their students, said Cavanaugh.
Measure Meaningful Metrics Beyond Grades
While test scores are important in measuring student performance, looking at other factors can be just as helpful.
Before restructuring its data analytics program, the St. Lucie Public School District in Florida was ranked 45th out of 67 districts, said Jon Prince, deputy superintendent for St. Lucie.
When tasked to improve graduation rates, Prince approached then-COO Terence O’Leary with a number of Excel spreadsheets, asking for a way to measure meaningful metrics in real time.
Working with O’Leary, the district constructed a data analytics initiative using Microsoft Business Intelligence to focus on “instructional time” as well as grades. This included metrics on attendance and out-of-school suspensions.
After implementing the program, St. Lucie’s graduation rates increased from 76 percent to 92 percent, and out-of-school suspension days decreased by 40 percent.
Partner with Institutions to Extend K–12 Data Collection
To make informed decisions on education, it is important to have an understanding of the longitudinal, complex experience that students have, said Cavanaugh. One way to do this is to collect and assess how students perform even after graduation.
“We’re not just thinking about course completion, program completion or graduation. We are really thinking about success once they leave. That’s why we are here,” said Cavanaugh.
One solution is to partner with nearby schools and universities, pooling data to create visuals of long-term student success.
Last year, the University of Central Florida partnered with local K–12 schools and community colleges to collaborate on data collection initiatives to build an education structure that will benefit students from start to finish.
The Central Florida Education Ecosystem Database initiative gathers information to help 390,000 students in the central Florida area, from pre-K to college graduation.
“They have agreed to share all of their data with each other so they can truly build bigger data analytics and really understand what that journey looks like,” said Cavanaugh. “A lot of independent schools are also forming networks and starting to think about how they can improve faster by sharing some of their data on common data platforms.”