- K-12 educators have hundreds of data sources, but that data is siloed
- Learning to manage a sea of data can help support your district’s strategic mission
- See related article: Reaching data readiness: 10 steps to take
Think about all the data points available at your average school district.
Standardized test scores. Behavioral assessments. Attendance. And grades, of course. Not to mention, most districts are assessing grit, emotional wellness, and individual personal growth plans as well.
On top of that there are the principal’s surveys, the innumerable Google forms created by individual teachers, and whatever data is gathered by a dizzying array of edtech tools. It’s safe to say most districts have hundreds of data sources. Maybe even thousands.
So, K-12 educators should truly have a full picture. They understand the whole child—or do they?
The problem is that you won’t find all this data in one place in most districts. Everything is siloed. Nothing is centralized. Access is limited. And as a result, districts simply aren’t getting the most out of all that data. They can react to problems in the rear-view mirror, but not necessarily respond, thoughtfully, in real-time.
Here are three ways to tame that sea of data and start turning your overly complicated data ecosystem into something that supports your district’s strategic vision.
Rethink the role of the Chief Technology Officer
At most districts, the Chief Academic Officer plays a huge role in the strategic plan. Districts empower this person to make critical decisions on anything impacting student learning, while ensuring they have all the resources they need. The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) isn’t always empowered in the same way. Maybe it stems from a time, not so long ago, when we thought of the CTO in terms of hardware—the pliers-and-wires person, the person who deals with login problems and broken monitors. Whatever the reason, that has to change if districts truly want to use technology to their students’ advantage.
District leaders should ensure the CTO has far more of a voice in the big-picture plan. The CTO needs to be part of any edtech solution conversation and empowered to provide meaningful input into the strategic direction and decision-making process. The CTO needs to be integrated into the district’s comprehensive vision and must have the right skills to connect all stakeholders around the goal of managing and effectively using whole-child data.
Eliminate data silos
With all the edtech tools on the market, it’s not an easy decision-making process. While it’s tempting to look for a silver bullet—one single edtech solution that solves all your problems—the patchwork approach all but guarantees your data will be relegated to separate silos. You’ll wind up with a situation where the only way to analyze data is to gather it manually. That’s not only inefficient, but it also takes more time, and educators certainly don’t have extra time.
District leaders, with the strategic guidance of the CTO, need to prioritize interoperability to build an ecosystem of tech tools that can seamlessly exchange data. This might involve slowing down the procurement process and strategically considering how a solution fits into the district’s tech stack, how it fits into their larger strategic vision, and how it supports the whole child. K-12 educators have a strong culture, stretching back decades, of putting a tremendous amount of time and thought into adopting new curriculum. They can bring that same level of thought and sophistication to buying edtech tools.
Empower data-informed decision making at all levels
Take a look at the apps you rely on as an administrator to understand how a particular student is doing. Then ask yourself: When’s the last time a student or a parent logged into those platforms? Can teachers use them? Community partners?
Too often, data is seen as something that’s held at the district level, with tightly controlled access to even parents and teachers. Typically, it’s the job of an administrator to merge data from six or eight different places to create a report for students to see how they’re performing in real time—well, sort of.
The desks of top administrators, though crucial to overall success, aren’t where the magic actually happens. It’s not where the relationships are built and interventions are deployed. When teachers, parents, or community partners step in to help a student, they need the complete picture of what’s going on at school, such as attendance, behavior, grades, and services used. That’s why it’s critical to empower educators on the front lines. Using real-time data platforms can allow all stakeholders access to the data they need to identify teaching and learning problems. That’s the way to solve them.
Align data management with strategic goals
If we take a step back and look at the goals of data management, we can see the true purpose. It’s not to create reports for the state education departments. It’s not data for data’s sake. Good data management isn’t an end goal. It needs to be integrated into your district’s strategic vision–actually, it’s a means to meet your district’s strategic vision. And that’s about ensuring each student has what they need for success.
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