A new interface offers a quick, graphic look at key district data. Here’s how four administrators are using it.
Name: Steven Langford, chief information officer
District: Beaverton (OR) School District
What We Use: VersiFit data warehousing (www.versifit.com ) with eSIS student information system (www.aalsolutions.com )
How my district uses it: In phase one of the dashboard project, we took the data out of the student information system and put it into a web-based portal for analysis. In phase two, we hope to get this information funneled down to the teacher level. This way, teachers have the ability to interpret data and use it to make decisions in the classroom.
Why I like it: I can instantly see real-time discipline information, such as in-school and out-of-school suspensions, unexcused and excused absences, demographic information, and so on. We can drill down into metrics to get to the level of the individual student. Then we can design intervention and scaffolding to better help each student get to the next level. In the past, administrators waited for weeks for these kinds of reports; now they have them at their fingertips.
What I wish it would do: We would like to integrate financials and human resources. These are two powerful applications that would benefit from this dashboard technology. We also need to ensure that we train users how to interpret the data.
Name: Larry Price, superintendent
District: Wilson County (NC) Schools
What We Use: K–12 Scorecard (www.sas.com )
How my district uses it: Our biggest problem was that our data were scattered, housed in many different places. The dashboard allows us access to all pertinent data in one place: assessment, attendance, financial data.
Why I like it: We can access historical data for comparison and analysis. We can drill down to target problems. Since the dashboard is populated by already existing data, it’s virtually transparent. This means the data can’t be changed, so no one can destroy it.
What I wish it would do: We would like school calendar dates instead of real calendar dates. I’d also like to be able to use it as a prediction tool, as well as a way to track ROI.
Name: Eric Burrage, director of operations and technology
District: Oxford (AL) City Schools
What We Use: STI InformationNOW (www.sti-k12.com)
How my district uses it: We use the dashboard to track student data for the entire district. These include special education, attendance, student demographics, discipline, athletic eligibility, and average daily attendance.
Why I like it: It’s a great way to pull together data from different areas within the system. It solves the problem we were having with data management, and it interfaces with our student-management program. The interface was easy to learn, even for the novice computer user.
What I wish it would do: I wish we could pull more outside sources into the reports, such as high-stakes state testing.
Name Dan Vomastek, director of assessment and student information systems
District: Portage (MI) Public Schools
What We Use: Pinnacle Analytics (Excelsior)
How my district uses it: We use the dashboard reports to compare our internal and external assessments. If our benchmarks look good but they fall short of the state benchmarks, we know there is a misalignment somewhere.
Why I like it: We can drill into the data and ask the software to give us a list of kids who didn’t pass certain tests. We can use the software to lock onto that group of kids to identify other variables that may be affecting their scores, such as attendance, demographics, and discipline. Because we can import any data into our system, we can tie into areas like financial and HR. We can also customize the look of the dashboard.
What I wish it would do: We are where we need to be for now, although we would like to do more data modeling down the road. Now we need to get people using the data.
Christine Weiser is a writer and editor who has reported on K-12 education technology for more than 15 years.