Updates from the world of data analytics.

Beyond ESSA: How School Districts Can Do More with Required Reporting to Support Strategic Decision Making

March 14, 2018


Contact: Eric Smith, Vice President of Marketing & Partnerships


The deadline has passed for states to submit final Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans. Now it’s up to school districts to figure out how to capture and report data about student performance to meet the new requirements. While the additional reporting can seem like a burden, buried in that task is a great opportunity to boost strategic decision-making capabilities. School administrators just need a simple method to look at student data in a new way.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, one of the main goals of ESSA is to ensure “that all students in America be taught to high academic standards that will prepare them to succeed in college and careers.” That goal matches what the vast majority of school districts already have in their sites for students.

The reporting requirements of ESSA to publish specific educational data sets separated by student subgroups and categories are driving many school districts to evaluate how they collect, analyze and present data. The reports are intended to help policymakers and school districts make decisions that better student achievement.

School districts are discovering the analytic capabilities needed to show proof of compliance with ESSA. The good news is there are so many other ways the tools and outputs can be tapped to better understand the needs of specific students and move the needle on student performance.

Silos of data

School districts are awash with data. Administrators across the United States wrestle with sorting through multiple data storage warehouses to retrieve needed stats, then figuring out how to combine all the inputs in a meaningful way. It’s a costly process for every size school district and it’s rare to have resources devoted solely to data analysis.

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Instead of manually finding data and creating reports, school districts can simplify the process by using an analytics platform that pulls data into one sandbox as needed from disparate student information systems (SIS). District staff no longer needs to extract data from several sources and populate complex spreadsheets. The analytics platform can refresh data and related analytics automatically on a regular basis.

Do more than just meet federal requirements

A sandbox holding all the data needed to produce ESSA reporting is a real time saver. The value of that capability alone is immeasurable to the productivity of a school district’s administrative team.

Here’s where the real value emerges.

Beyond producing reports to meet ESSA reporting requirements, the analytics platform can easily be used to analyze data at multiple levels to support strategic decision making about individual students, groups of students, building initiatives, district-wide issue and much more.

Bringing data to life

The right analytics platform can correlate data in easy-to-read, customizable dashboard views. The output should provide a quick analysis at a number of levels depending on what the reviewer wants to study. In just a few clicks, you should be able to drill down from a district level to an individual student.

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To truly assess student readiness, it’s important to be able to use analytics to look at what’s happening across the spectrum, not just the district level. Blanket level district decisions can be effective, but won’t necessarily impact specific subgroups or students if the district doesn’t have visibility into how they are performing or undertake prescriptive measures.


Added analytics in action

A large school district in Illinois recently deployed an analytics platform to more easily collect and analyze data stored in multiple databases. As administrators dug into the capabilities enabled by the new solution, they quickly discovered the platform simplified the process to assess student performance according to their established segmentation model.

The segmentation model places students into career and college tracks based on specific metrics. The goals are to make sure students stay on the right path – or move to a higher path – and are ready for the next step when they graduate. 

After defining what metrics need to be reviewed on a regular basis, a baseline model was developed. Additional data from multiple levels can be added as needed to build a better picture of how a student is performing against segmentation goals. Administrators and counselors can easily add data about attendance, extracurricular activities, classes taken and other indicators to better understand successes, identify factors for improvement and more quickly apply academic interventions.

The school district reports the analytics platform enables their team to get real-time, accurate updates on key student indicators. Previously, they spent 90 percent of their time configuring school improvement data and 10 percent of their time analyzing it. Now, it takes them 10 percent of their time to configure the data, leaving 90 percent of their time to analyze results and develop interventions to support student success.

Going beyond ESSA

Every state has some flexibility to set standards for how they measure student performance to meet the ESSA mandate. As school districts discover the impact of reporting requirements, there’s a great opportunity to do more with the new capabilities they’ll need to collect, analyze and review outputs.

With the right tools, school districts will find that they save time and have better analysis to identify ways to improve student performance.




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