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Better data, better teaching: how a data-driven culture can transform education

It’s been a little over a year and a half since the coronavirus changed the face of education. Since schools throughout North America were thrown into the deep end of e-learning, forced to go fully remote and fully virtual. 

At this point, it’s clear there’s no going back to the way things were before COVID-19. Even as students begin to return to school and classrooms once again host lessons, the infrastructure put in place during the pandemic remains—as do the lessons learned. 

The pandemic showed us what the education sector could be. It demonstrated the potential of digitization to revolutionize learning. It proved how data, leveraged effectively, could be used to improve lesson plans, build deeper relationships with students and parents, and ultimately, promote better outcomes. 

Achieving those outcomes requires that your district do more than deploy a few software platforms. It necessitates a cultural shift. Only by embracing data-driven education can your district truly realize its potential. 

Doing so, however, requires that you first understand why data is so valuable, and how it might be leveraged. 

What’s The Big Deal About Education Data, Anyway? 

For even a single student, a K-12 school district will, by virtue of recordkeeping, generate a figurative mountain of data, including: 

  • Attendance records
  • Classroom feedback
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Grades
  • Courses
  • Fees
  • Contact information 
  • Extracurriculars
  • Demographics
  • Contact information

As you might expect, this means that tracking a student’s educational journey through traditional processes is shockingly complex. There are countless moving parts, with coordination between multiple departments, teachers, and administrators. This frequently culminates in bits and pieces of information scattered across multiple data silos.

All of this makes achieving a big-picture overview of a student’s performance nearly impossible. Each teacher must instead rely exclusively on what they know of the student from their interactions in the classroom. 

And while it’s certainly true that a teacher’s intuition can go a long way towards helping a student learn, it cannot replace the insights gained from tangible data.

So, what’s the takeaway here? It’s simple. Successful school districts must learn to embrace a data-driven culture if they want to stay agile, strategic, and capable of meeting the needs of modern education. 

What Can Data Science Achieve for Education? 

Let’s start by making it clear that the idea of embracing a data-driven culture doesn’t mean you need a team of data scientists. Instead, it’s about using the data you collect to make informed decisions.

Consider the following questions: 

  • How can you tell if a student is learning effectively? 
  • How do you know if a student requires special concessions in the classroom? 
  • Is your school district distributing its resources as effectively as it could be? 
  • What could be preventing a particular student or class from progressing at the rate that it should be? 

Traditionally, faculty must rely on incomplete information, conjecture, and anecdotal evidence to answer these questions. Because the relevant data is spread across so many departments and systems, they don’t really have much choice. A data-driven school district ensures all this information is stored in one central location and readily accessible.

Through analysis and visualization, districts then empower their schools and staff in a multitude of ways:

  • Less busywork: Teachers and administrative staff alike spend less time on recordkeeping and manual data entry, allowing them to focus more on their students. 
  • Personalized lesson plans: Combining predictive analytics with teaching expertise ensures that each student can be taught in whatever way best matches their learning style.
  • More support for students: Teachers can more effectively identify when a student is struggling, and step in to provide them with whatever support they may need. 
  • Improved spending and resource allocation: Districts can more easily identify and address issues with school infrastructure or shortages in critical educational materials
  • Visibility and accountability: The right data platform allows teachers to identify students attempting to hoodwink the attendance system and hold them accountable. It also makes it easier to follow up with non-problematic students after an unexpected absence. 
  • Easier reporting: From a compliance perspective, the data silos that plague education are a nightmare. By more efficiently and effectively organizing information at the classroom, school, and district levels, administrators help make compliance simpler, even amidst shifting requirements. 
  • Streamlined grading and assessments: Teachers can apply and grade assessments in real-time, then compare this data to district-level benchmarks.


How to Build a Data-Driven Culture in Your School District

Data-driven school districts enable deeper student engagement, more effective teaching, and better allocation of resources and investments. But how does one go from traditional to data-driven? And how can your district embrace data science? 

We recommend starting with the following process: 

    1. Cultural change starts at the top: Your first step, then, is to get district-level staff on-board with the transition. Explain to them how better data can not only support student learning, but also make their jobs easier. 
    2. Get everyone on board: Once you’ve gotten buy-in from high level administrators, you can then move on to teachers and school-level administrative staff. Discuss with them what they want from their data and why. Work with them to tear down data silos across the district through consolidation. 
    3. Incorporate training to help acclimatize employees to your new standards, tools, and processes: This training should be regularly revisited and revised as you move forward, and its core focus should be on ensuring that people not only understand how to use the data, but why they should.
    4. Determine how and where data will be categorized, stored, and secured: Ensure all stakeholders understand the importance of data privacy and compliance, and that you have the necessary mechanisms in place to ensure said compliance. Establish clear standards for reporting and analysis.
    5. Promote intentional, strategic use of data by both teachers and administrators: Bring up insights and initiatives in faculty meetings, and make discussions about analytics and data science a part of each school’s day-to-day. 
    6. Speak to students and their parents: Explain to them how, by leveraging data, you’ll be enriching their education and providing them with support for better long-term learning. 
    7. Collaborate regularly with teachers and other staff: Promote collaboration and transparency at every phase of the transition to ensure your data-driven culture sticks. 

Once you’ve laid the necessary cultural groundwork for your school district’s shift towards data science, the next step is finding the tools to support that shift. 


Create a Data-Driven Culture With the Edsembli Ecosystem

Edsembli can help you transform the way your school district collects, analyzes, and uses its data

Built with the unique needs of K-12 school districts in mind, the Edsembli Ecosystem takes a data-focused approach to improving outcomes and promoting efficiency at every level, from classroom to boardroom. 

With customizable reports, easy visualization, powerful automation, secure auditing, and student management, we’ll provide you with everything you need to support a renewed focus on data—and in so doing, help a new generation of students find its footing in the world. 

Are you ready to create a data-driven culture in your school district? Get in touch with one of our specialists today to get started.

Book your demo with an Edsembli education specialist today

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