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Launching a district data warehousing project

A redesign of a school district’s information systems is always a challenge, but Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WSFCS) was further complicated by rapid growth, changing demographics and school choice. WSFCS is the fifth-largest system in North Carolina, with 80 schools and approximately 52,000 students and 8,000 teachers and administrators. The system gains about 500 students a year, so new schools are regularly being opened.

In a district with significant ethnic and socio-economic diversity, it is critical to have more than percentages and summaries of student achievement, but to know which students and teachers might need extra help. Distribution of students changes, sometimes markedly. Parents can choose from their neighborhood schools, another school in their zones, or from 15 magnet programs.

Despite dynamic growth and change, and faced with a hodgepodge of disparate data sources and ad hoc processes, WSFCS was able to create a unified information infrastructure that now delivers meaningful, interactive, visual reports to support data-driven decisions. How did we do it?

Redefining the information environment

Find and evaluate the current data sources.
Five years ago, the WSFCS director of accountability, superintendent and director of curriculum spent a year studying the district’s different data sources. The result was scary. The data was everywhere, fragmented and overlapping. They needed to pull all of it together.

(Next page: More steps and tips)

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