- Deep analysis of student data can help educators make informed decisions to address inequities in learning and discover strategies for whole-child positive outcomes, panelists said during a webinar earlier this month hosted by Frontline Education, a K-12 software company.
- Districts, however, can be "data rich but analytics poor," meaning they are challenged with having more data than they know what to do with but do not know where or how to begin their analysis, said CyLynn Braswell, analytics advisor with Frontline Education.
- As school systems continue to respond to pandemic-related academic, emotional and behavioral needs, the need for quicker and broader access to tools to disaggregate data will increase, as will the need to interpret the metrics to find responsible solutions, panelists said.
Barbara Ybarra, associate superintendent of teaching and learning for the Bryan Independent School District in Texas, said conducting collaborative and transparent data analysis through the use of analytic tools is essential for guiding program and financial decisions in schools and districts.
So, too, is the willingness of school leaders and staff to ask questions about why there are hurdles to learning and then use the data to uncover root causes to those barriers, even if the data reveals difficult truths. She recommends schools create a "safe space to talk about data" and use data to move decisions forward into actionable realities.
"Our leaders, more so than ever, have to be able to use data to tell a story and use data to show progress," Ybarra said.
Searetha Smith-Collins, chief academic officer of 7 Mindsets, a company that offers K-12 social-emotional learning solutions, said data analysis can be particularly helpful in measuring relationship-building efforts, including the status of teacher recruitment and retainment, student and family engagement, and the mental well-being of staff and students.
"When we start looking at how to measure outcomes, we're going to have to first look at the non-cognitive type of indicators that really have to be put into place," Smith-Collins said.
Using the data collected in student information systems to build dashboards to allow for customized analyses can help school staff begin their research. Depending on the student information system data available and the tools used for analysis, that research could uncover a wide range of information at the district, school or student level, said Adam Cibulka, senior manager of student analytics at Frontline Education.
Measuring disproportionality in discipline, academic growth rates and attendance are just a few examples of the metrics research school staff can undertake, the panelists suggested.
Braswell emphasized in a later interview that data analysis can also reveal the level of equity in access to summer programming, transportation, broadband and other supports. One district she worked with created a family grouping code in its student information system and then analyzed the consistency and effectiveness of communications to families with multiple children in the school system, as well as barriers to services within family groups.
"Now all of a sudden, the stakeholders are all invested," Braswell said. "We have to stop looking at people as something to be solved. We need to look at the organization and see how the organization will work for the young people and this community they serve.