As many institutions have found, becoming a data-driven institution is not simply a case of having digital records readily available. The mere presence of digital data does not necessarily result in value addition. For many schools, their data is fragmented and isn’t presented in an immediately usable format. Getting it into one place, visualized accordingly, depending on the use case, is simply an impractical, unattainable prospect.
However, in an ideal scenario, data should be harnessed, insights gleaned from it that enable schools to benefit from data-driven decision-making that directly results in school improvement. The end goal for all stakeholders involved – district administrators, educators, students and parents alike – is to be able to use data to enhance the performance of students. This means educators should be able to diagnose and address issues in time, and come to the aid of students that may be struggling.
The benefits of decision-making that’s based on facts and real data is undeniable. For most, the difficulty is in the details, the actual how of it. Advice on the mechanics of how to implement a strategy for data-driven education can be hard to come by. So in this article we take a broad look at how to go about implementing such a strategy for your institution, and offer some practical tips to keep in mind as you go about the process.
Benefits of Data-Driven Decision Making in Education
Taking a data-driven approach enables institutions to unlock the potential that K12 data inherently possesses. This turns K12 data management from a burden into an asset. With properly organized and visualized data, you can track historical performance at a glance in easy-to-use dashboards, take stock with a well-visualized depiction of your current position, and look forwards with predictive tools that intelligently interpret historical data.
This not only gives educational institutions a platform from which to identify areas of improvement and track progress, it also improves accountability, making it possible to assign responsibility for certain performance metrics.
There are also efficiency improvements that come with a data-driven approach. Timely data provides support for addressing student learning deficits, enabling institutions to adapt their instructional approaches to better achieve learning objectives.
This, in turn, has a positive impact on the productivity of everyone involved. There is a clarity of purpose, and a rewarding sense of progress as effort is applied towards making improvements and achieving those clearly defined goals.
5 Steps for Becoming Data-Driven Schools
Develop a Vision and Strategy
For many institutions, data is used almost exclusively for compliance reasons. It is more of a demanding administrative chore than a source of meaningful insight. This often leads to a very limited view of what is possible with the data available.
One of the most important steps in becoming truly data-driven is therefore to identify a vision for what you want the data to do for you, and then go about strategizing on how to actualize it. You identify your needs and align your technology stack towards addressing those issues.
You may, for example, want to enhance inclusive education in your institution, or improve proficiency in order to meet, or exceed, state standards, or simply to gauge your performance against other schools in your district. Whatever your purpose, it has to be clearly defined. Only then can you go about devising a strategy, and identifying the tools with which to implement it.
Finding the right platform is a crucial part of this. If, for example, you determine that you want to reduce and eventually eliminate dropout rates, choose a platform that can help you easily visualize student performance metrics – regardless of their source – throughout the year, and pinpoint the problem areas that have the biggest bearing on this statistic. A platform like AnalyticVue can even provide you with AI-powered predictive metrics to help you root out problems before they even surface.
Define Metrics and Goals
Once your vision is clear, you need to identify what metrics are relevant to the challenges you have identified. So it is important that your vision and strategy start out on clear, quantifiable, and achievable objectives. You can then determine how best to record the relevant metrics and address the inadequacies they reveal.
This process of defining metrics and goals is crucial because it enables you to automatically focus your efforts on identifying critical statistics that define your aims. You also make an implicit commitment to capture the data that is needed to track progress and determine whether or not you are on the right path.
You might, for instance, identify standards that require mastery, like mathematics or reading, and set benchmarks to achieve them. This makes it easier to identify which tools can give you this capability, and also hold staff, students, and other stakeholders accountable for their responsibilities in the process. It also rewards them with ownership of the achievement of those objectives.
Commit to Managing Your Data
For many educational institutions, the availability of data is not the problem. Institutions routinely record a lot of data. The difficulty lies in being able to extract the insights from it that are necessary to support policy-making and facilitate improvement. For this to happen, the data has to be clean, it has to be up-to-date, and has to align with organizational goals. Therein lies the challenge.
In many cases, schools rely on metrics that are spread out across disparate systems. The result is that even when institutions have a considerable amount of data, their staff are not able to draw insights from it because they don’t have a unified, holistic view that enables them to see the big picture and adapt their methods accordingly. Bringing this data into a usable format, in one unified system is extremely complex, time-consuming, and simply beyond the capabilities of many institutions. But all the same, managing this data is the first step to being able to produce timely, actionable insights that translate to real results in the classroom.
With a platform like AnalyticVue that packages data from different sources into one universal view, you can vastly improve your ability to make the most of it, and dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to start benefiting from it. Data is very helpfully visualized in intuitive dashboards that can be customized to show you the reports you need. It can be sorted and filtered to show you information in a way that is relevant to you. You can visualize data on mastery of standards, attendance, and many other metrics at a district level, school level, or dive even deeper depending on your needs.
AnalyticVue can produce aggregated reports that help policy makers quickly see where a school is in relation to district averages or state standards. You can then quickly identify how many students are on course to achieve these goals, and drill down into this information to the individual level.
Engage the Teaching Staff
At the end of the day, the systems you implement are only as useful as the people utilizing them. Throughout your process, it is important to make sure you involve the people who are responsible for delivering results in class – the teaching staff. By engaging them in the process, you ensure that they buy into the solution, and have more assurance that the processes will indeed be implemented to the good of everyone involved. If a system is not a good fit, it will end up disrupting workflows and have an adverse effect on performance, the opposite of what is intended.
You may, for instance, implement a system that does not present data in a format that is not immediately helpful for teaching staff, has a complex or rigid user interface, or is otherwise just not functionally adequate for their needs. Getting your staff involved from the get-go will help move things along more smoothly.
Be Flexible and Adaptive
As you go about implementing a system, it is important not to lose sight of the overall goal of your efforts – data-driven school improvement. It is easy to become enamored with gimmicky technology that does not necessarily deliver significant benefits. When all is said and done, your efforts should result in tangible improvements that enable you to meet your institution’s goals.
This might mean breaking with long-held ways of doing things, cutting through bureaucratic processes, and perhaps even binning entire systems that are proving ineffective. This doesn’t necessarily have to be done at once. You can start small.
Bear in mind the solution you settle on should be a future-proof, scalable one. You save yourself a lot of headaches down the road this way. AnalyticVue, for instance, provides a cloud-based enterprise data architecture. It takes an API-based approach so integration with new systems is always a possibility. This means the system is designed to scale and evolve with your needs from the very beginning.
The benefits of data-driven education are beyond debate. Data-driven decision-making in education, properly implemented, can produce lifelong benefits for students, and increase job satisfaction and fulfillment for teaching staff who can finally have tools at their disposal to efficiently carry out their mandate. A platform like AnalyticVue ensures you have the ability to bring together fragmented data from different sources, and places a powerful high-performance data platform in your hands to help you ensure every student truly does succeed.