Tech leaders who are focused on data privacy must carefully examine the way their district's data is stored

Missouri Makes the Most of Student Data

Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven & Dr. John White, VP of SAS Education Visualization and Analytics Solutions detail their new analytics tool

Last week, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), in partnership with SAS, launched the Missouri Data Visualization Tool (MO DVT), a web-based application that offers easy-to-use reports and analysis on academic performance, including achievement and growth data aggregated by subject, year, and grade. MO DVT was created in response to stakeholder questions about interpreting and using Missouri Growth Model data.

I was able to get into the weeds with Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven & Dr. John White, VP of SAS Education Visualization and Analytics Solutions (EVAAS) to discuss the genesis and strategic goals of the MO DVT, the integration with Missouri’s broader educational strategies, and how quality data is improving decision-making in Missouri schools.

According to both Margie and John, the tool allows educators to access longitudinal data on student performance, track progress over time, and identify areas for improvement. It provides insights at both individual student and group levels, enabling teachers to tailor instruction to meet diverse student needs. Additionally, it supports decision-making at the policy level by analyzing academic impacts, such as the effectiveness of a four-day school week.

By actually using the wealth of available data, the emphasis is now on translating it into meaningful insights to drive improvements in teaching and learning. The goal is to foster a culture of continuous improvement and empower educators with the tools needed to support student success.

Some highlights of the conversation:

  • Actionable Data for Teachers: The program aims to make growth data actionable for teachers, moving beyond using it solely for accountability purposes to inform classroom instruction and support individual student needs effectively.
  • Privacy and Security: Measures are in place to ensure data privacy and security, with access restricted to authorized personnel and adherence to regulations like FERPA.
  • Longitudinal Tracking: Educators can track student progress over time, analyze historical data, and make projections for future performance, enabling targeted interventions and support.
  • Group-Level Insights: The tool provides insights at both individual student and group levels, allowing educators to identify trends, disparities, and best practices among different student populations.
  • Policy-Level Decision Making: The program supports policy-level decision-making by analyzing academic impacts, such as the effectiveness of initiatives like the four-day school week, to inform future strategies and interventions.
  • Promotion of Data Literacy: Educators are encouraged to engage with the data to understand student performance trends, measure growth, and identify areas for improvement, fostering a culture of data-driven decision-making in education.
  • Continuous Improvement: The overarching goal is to foster a culture of continuous improvement in education, leveraging data insights to drive positive outcomes for students and empower educators with the tools and knowledge needed for success.

Below is a machine-generated transcript of the recording:


00:00:04 Speaker 1 

OK, great. Thanks so much for joining me today. I really appreciate your time. I know you’re busy. Lots of news. Let’s jump right into it. Doctor, maybe you can start by just talking about the program where it began. How long has it been in process to where we’ve gotten to the point now that it’s an active tool for your users? 

00:00:23 Speaker 2 

So in the state of Missouri, we have a history of of using growth data to inform our accountability decisions. But what we’re doing now is moving to a step further to to not just let it inform accountability policy decision making at the state level, but really making the data actionable for our teachers in the classroom. 

00:00:45 Speaker 2 

And that’s really where it’s at. We know that’s that’s what helps improve and performance for our students is when we can actually take data and make it an A usable, actionable place for our teachers. 

00:00:59 Speaker 1 

Yeah. And John, I know you’ve been working in this field for a long time. It used to be, at least when it came to our readers and listeners over the years that sometimes data would be seen as a dirty word, a little bit of a boogeyman, especially when you would get down to the teacher level, many of whom consider themselves. 

00:01:19 Speaker 1 

Artists, not necessarily scientists when it comes to their kids and how to teach their kids. I think a lot of that has changed, but I think there’s still some remnants of it. Maybe you could talk a little bit about how you see. 

00:01:32 Speaker 1 

The these tools and I think would support when when Doctor mentioned that it is for the teachers, not necessarily for the the Superintendent or the principal, right. 

00:01:42 Speaker 3 

Yeah, that’s right. So what this tool really allows is for people to see longitudinal data over time at the student level, track the progress of students through all the way starting from 3rd grade all the way through whatever grade they may be sitting in in that year with what, what teacher that. 

00:02:02 Speaker 3 

Maybe teaching them at that time? 

00:02:05 Speaker 3 

So allowing a teacher to have access to how much growth a student made in previous years and in the most recent year can be really helpful in trying to understand what may be best for an individual student. Now the data not only is available at the student by student level, but also aggregated. 

00:02:24 Speaker 3 

At the group level, maybe for schools and for Elias, so schools and Elias can reflect on trends in growth data to see if they implemented different strategies in previous years. What may have worked best to help make the most growth possible with the different groups of students. 



00:02:43 Speaker 1 

So and I I mentioned the cut of the data is a dirty word and sometimes seen as a boogeyman and one of the big reasons for that over the years has been the the worry about student privacy, right. And data privacy and the use of that. Maybe you could talk about how this solution is able to kind of distinguish between you’re talking about getting that at the granular level with a particular. 

00:03:05 Speaker 1 

Student. I’ll assume that there is protections in there in terms of that data when it comes to not only test scores, but maybe ISP’s or behavioral sort of data. 



00:03:17 Speaker 3 

That’s absolutely right. So what the system is, is there is a public site access, but that available that data is only available in the aggregate level at the school in LA kind of aggregated level. But you have to have login credentials for any individual access to get into the system and see individual student level. 

00:03:38 Speaker 3 

You can. 

00:03:39 Speaker 3 

Then you know it would be dependent upon the school in which a an educator is at, for what individual students that they are able to access and see data for. So we certainly follow all the security standards and requirements as well as legislation like FERPA to make sure that only the. 

00:03:59 Speaker 3 

Appropriate individual educators have access to the appropriate student level. 

00:04:05 Speaker 2 

Yeah. And I’ll just, I’ll just piggyback on that. I think that’s probably the very first thing we. 

00:04:09 Speaker 2 

Need to assure. 

00:04:10 Speaker 2 

Everyone of is that this is always protected data to the highest level that we can ensure that our our parents are counting on that. We certainly make sure that all those protocols are in place. 

00:04:22 Speaker 1 

Yeah. Can you paint me? 

00:04:24 Speaker 1 

A little bit of kind of a. 

00:04:25 Speaker 1 

Day in the life. 

00:04:26 Speaker 1 

When it comes to the use of this, especially when you’re talking about maybe a teacher, I mean just kind of walk through the day is this, is this still intended to be used on a daily basis or on something maybe at the end of the quarter when they’re compiling grades? Can you give me some real world examples of of how you intend it to be? 

00:04:46 Speaker 2 

Well, I’ll, I’ll speak from the day in the life of of us at a policy level and then try to bring it down to the, to the teacher level. So again these the the particular model that we are currently using is is still dependent upon that end of the year State assessment data that we get that. 

00:05:04 Speaker 2 

Has historically been important, but sometimes falling a little flat, and here’s what I. 

00:05:09 Speaker 2 

Mean by that, if we. 

00:05:10 Speaker 2 

Focus solely on the proficient score. Like if we just look at where a child scores on the proficient level, then that becomes the target for teachers or for parents or for the students even. And what we’ve learned over I think over since the implementation, particularly of NCLB. 

00:05:30 Speaker 2 

Over a decade ago is, if you focus just on proficiency, you can lose sight of kids on both ends of of that spectrum there. So those kids that are really scoring. 

00:05:40 Speaker 2 

Well, sometimes can be that they’re going to score proficient no matter what this is. This is a value added model that says for all kids, even those highest performing, how do we make sure that we are driving improvement at every level. So all those kids get get paid very close attention to and all teachers pay attention to every kid. 

00:06:01 Speaker 2 

Don’t get me wrong, they certainly do. But I’m talking about from the. 

00:06:04 Speaker 2 

State level when? 

00:06:05 Speaker 2 

We used to hear a term that. 

00:06:10 Speaker 2 

Sometimes teachers or school districts would refer to as our bubble kids, like kids who are just about to get over one level into proficiency, and what the growth model does, it says, hey, let’s pay attention to every single child on that roster and let’s see how far whether they’re well below proficiency. And we’re going to move them towards that or whether they’re. 

00:06:30 Speaker 2 

Well above proficiency, and we’re going to continue to make sure that we’re pushing those highest. 

00:06:36 Speaker 2 

Achievers, even higher. So for us at the state level, that’s how I like to look at that data and say we are paying attention to every single child. Now how does the teacher take that data then? There, I’m going to let John speak to that a little bit more too. But as a teacher, you want to know who am I most effective with in the classroom? I really moving performance. 

00:06:56 Speaker 2 

For all kids? Or am I able to step back and say, gosh, I wonder what was? 

00:07:00 Speaker 2 

Happening with with this group of students that I that I as a teacher, didn’t have as much value. Add to that learning opportunity for those kids because we want to be successful with with all students. And then you add a few more tools to that toolbox. But I I wouldn’t say that that the initial results are a day-to-day operational piece because. 

00:07:21 Speaker 2 

We are still we we depend on that state state assessment that we get annually to to talk about what’s happening gives us great power at the. 

00:07:33 Speaker 2 

State Board of Education level or others when we can say which schools really are serving various populations of students and still showing tremendous growth and that’s that. Then you can say what are they doing because we have a like population over here who we’d like to see those kinds of results to. Can we connect those two? 

00:07:53 Speaker 2 

Schools can we connect those two districts to say, what’s happening at all in the spirit of of improvement and serving our kids better? 

00:08:04 Speaker 3 

Yeah. So, so I’ll just add a. 

00:08:05 Speaker 3 

Couple of thoughts here. 

00:08:09 Speaker 3 

As an educator goes into the system at the individual student level, they would be able to see all of the prior student testing history of that student. So as the Commissioner said, each and every year with new state assessment data, that data would be up loaded into the system and so there would be new assessments. 

00:08:26 Speaker 3 

Available annually in that system, but to your earlier point point Kevin about security and access throughout the year, students may move from one building to another, and so the system has to be updated to make sure that as students move around the state and move into different buildings, that the permissions and security are updated so that. 

00:08:47 Speaker 3 

And educator can gain access to the student level data for students sitting in their classroom at that moment. So that’s something that. 

00:08:55 Speaker 3 

Because get updated throughout the year now within the system, as the Commissioner was saying, so an individual educator can see all of the testing history and math and reading and and all the various subjects on the state assessment system, they can look at how much growth is being made by that student in years past. 

00:09:15 Speaker 3 

They can also look forward. 

00:09:18 Speaker 3 

More proactively to get a likelihood of success on a future assessment, so they may be seeing a student in their classroom and we may be saying something like based on all the prior testing data of that individual student and the average experience that you may see, this student has a 70%. 

00:09:38 Speaker 3 

Chance of being proficient, let’s say, on. 

00:09:41 Speaker 3 

On their next grade level assessment, they haven’t taken. So as they are administering kind of interim assessments throughout the year to gauge where that student is, they can reflect back on that projection probability to see if that student seems to be on track throughout the year. 

00:09:58 Speaker 3 

Also, when you aggregate this data up a level, you can see the amount of growth that students were making. Let’s say that were in the lowest achievement group or the highest achievement group. You can disaggregate the student level data into different types of student groups such as. 

00:10:15 Speaker 3 

Your higher poverty student groups versus lower poverty or English learners versus non-english learners, just to see if. 

00:10:24 Speaker 3 

An individual group or a certain subject in grade you are making more growth with certain types of students. For example, one group of teachers within fifth grade math might be doing really well with their highest achieving students, but not as well with their lowest achieving students. Or maybe vice versa, so they can reflect on those practices and see. 

00:10:44 Speaker 3 

You know what can we do a little bit differently with our lowest achieving students to make sure that they’re able to make as much growth and progress as we’re making with some of the other students. And then there’s a lot of comparative features too, that allow a school to see the amount of growth that another school may be making. That’s of a similar. 

00:11:05 Speaker 3 

On a student group, so they may have similar groups of students within their building or a similar makeup of students within their building their achievement level so they can find another school and locate them to maybe again just share best practices or try to understand a little better of what they may be doing differently that’s having more or less success. 

00:11:25 Speaker 3 

With their students. 

00:11:27 Speaker 1 

Yeah, that seems that the idea of sharing best practices is something that is is really strong and when you have the numbers to back it up, it just it makes it that much more powerful. I know that there’s been other at the state level, you know, initiatives such as the, the, the four day school week that has has gone back and forth. Can you talk a little bit about how this sort of data? 

00:11:47 Speaker 1 

Was able to kind of reinforce some of those ideas. 

00:11:53 Speaker 2 

Well, I’m going to start off with just talking about what we were trying to garner from the study itself and then I’ll let John speak to how they were able to to do that for us. And so for us in the state of Missouri, again, we have had the option of a four day school week for quite some time now for probably just over a decade that legislation. 

00:12:13 Speaker 2 

Changed back in a time when it was, it was really to try to address fuel, fuel charges and you know, busting issues and that sort of thing it was. Can we save money? 

00:12:26 Speaker 2 

And well, that really didn’t come to great fruition. We found out that it wasn’t really a great cost saving metric for it. So a lot of districts did not go to the four day school week. What what we’re seeing now is that a number of our districts are finding it to be what they see as an effective teacher recruitment and retention. 

00:12:46 Speaker 2 

Strategy. So we had a large number of our districts sort of what what I call the domino effect you you have one district start here and then the neighboring districts start to to follow suit because they’re trying to pull from the same pool pool of teachers. 

00:13:02 Speaker 2 

And so the statute does give the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education the authority to really look at what is the academic impact of that four day school week. 

00:13:11 Speaker 2 

And should they? 

00:13:11 Speaker 2 

Keep that option in place, so that was. 

00:13:14 Speaker 2 

Our very, very. 

00:13:15 Speaker 2 

First question is to look at again, going back to the sort of value add concept, does it add value to go to a four day or does the five day? 

00:13:23 Speaker 2 

And how do? 

00:13:24 Speaker 2 

We measure that. So that’s when we called upon Sass to say, could we look at the growth data to help inform that academic? 

00:13:31 Speaker 2 

Side I’ll let John speak to that, but just as a data person, you’ll you’ll know and understand that that only became the the first layer of the onion peel. Once we started talking about academics, then people want to know, well, did it impact attendance? Does it really successfully recruit and doesn’t help retain your teachers? 

00:13:48 Speaker 2 

What are the? 

00:13:49 Speaker 2 

How do the families feel about it? What is the social implication? Who’s feeding the kids? 

00:13:53 Speaker 2 

And there’s a million questions that follow. So I like to be very specific that our request to Sass was to really help us to understand academic impact. And John, I’ll toss it to you now to talk about how that study was done. 

00:14:09 Speaker 3 

Yeah. So all of our work with the state of Missouri has been around using longitudinal student level data. 

00:14:15 Speaker 3 

And so we have a lot of information over time at the student level for all of the students in the state on these statewide assessments. And So what that allowed us to do with this particular research question is follow the achievement levels of school districts over time then to. 

00:14:35 Speaker 3 

Identify where that school district may have made a change to a four day. 

00:14:39 Speaker 3 

Full week and to see if using their own prior data as kind of a control. Did they have some type of significant impact when they moved to a four day school week on their achievement information and we were able to look at that for all the school districts given they moved at maybe a different point in time to that. 

00:14:59 Speaker 3 

Four day school week, not only did we look at just kind of generally how high achieving. 

00:15:05 Speaker 3 

Were they, and how much did that change when they moved to a? 

00:15:08 Speaker 3 

Four day school. 

00:15:08 Speaker 3 


00:15:10 Speaker 3 

But we also looked at their growth data, so growth data being a little bit different. You know how much growth are they making with students given all of the prior achievement levels of their students? And did the amount of growth that those school districts did that? 

00:15:25 Speaker 3 

Amount changed from the point prior to after them moving to that four day school week, and the answer was there was there was really no significant up or down movement in both the achievement or growth data when school districts moved over to that four day school week. 

00:15:43 Speaker 3 

So we have we didn’t. 

00:15:45 Speaker 3 

Find anything in terms of a a significant change in those academic indicators. 

00:15:50 Speaker 3 

As the Commissioner was mentioning. 

00:15:52 Speaker 1 

Interesting. Well, so now that UM, this tool is launched and is in use, what’s next I. 

00:16:00 Speaker 1 

Mean what are are there? 

00:16:01 Speaker 1 

Hopes and goals that maybe some. 

00:16:05 Speaker 1 

Not some surprises, but some. Some new ideas on which you guys can use this data to further improve the student experience. 

00:16:16 Speaker 2 

Well for me. 

00:16:17 Speaker 2 

For me again at the state level, I’m just really happy to hear the feedback from the school districts who are understanding and using the tool for so long. 

00:16:25 Speaker 2 

They’ve been giving them a score and a score without information is a score, right? Like it doesn’t really. And we understand that and recognize that it doesn’t help inform the next steps. 

00:16:39 Speaker 2 

Or the school district or the teacher. We think this putting this tool in the hands of our school districts allows them again to to move beyond. Just looking at a report card and saying, OK, how do I, how do I transform some of the work that needs to take place here? And again that. 

00:16:59 Speaker 2 

Can’t always happen on one year. You want to look at multiple trend data. You want to look at what’s happening in your school, in your environment. 

00:17:05 Speaker 2 

And and what the data are telling you, but that’s that’s how I see it is is again that it was coming from the the school districts who were really asking us for assistance. How do I get better? How do I how do I move the needle here. And so how you do that is by making sure we’re reaching every single child in the best way that we can. 

00:17:26 Speaker 2 

Right. So to me, that’s exciting. I’m. I’m excited to see what we’ll be able to do. 

00:17:31 Speaker 2 

And and and garner from more information we I’ll just wrap up with this statement. You’ve heard it a million times. If you’re in the data world, but it is just true when you’re data rich and information poor, that’s a challenge, right? We have a ton of data. So what are we doing with it and how do we use that information? 

00:17:51 Speaker 2 

For the betterment of our kids. 

00:17:54 Speaker 1 

Yeah. And John, any last thoughts? 

00:17:56 Speaker 3 

Yeah, we’re. I’m just really excited. I’m we’re. We’re really proud to be working with the state of Missouri on making this information more accessible and being able to put it into the hands of educators. I think that, you know, when they can actually see this information, they can find it very they they will find it very intuitive. 

00:18:15 Speaker 3 

They will be able to. 

00:18:16 Speaker 3 

Look at the data at the individual student level. 

00:18:19 Speaker 3 

You will. 

00:18:20 Speaker 3 

Start to help them seek and why measuring growth is so useful and valuable. 

00:18:25 Speaker 3 

And just we’re really excited to just help promote the usage of this and see where it goes. 

00:18:30 Speaker 1 

Well, congratulations on your work and know it’s going to have a huge impact for the the students in the state of Missouri and hopefully sharing these insights will help inspire some of our readers and listeners to maybe put a little pressure on their own state governments to get their their data house in order. So thanks again for your time. I really appreciate it. 

00:18:49 Speaker 2 

Thank you. 

00:18:50 Speaker 3 

Thank you so much. 

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