By Kevin Shane / March 13, 2018

Fundamentals of EdData, Part 1: [What’s Your Data Strategy?]

As the first part of a new series on the Fundamentals of EdData, we’ve been reviewing some corporate strategies that make us think a lot about how schools use data. This article from the Harvard Business Review focuses on the two different strategies, offense and defense, companies (or schools) can have for their data. The main idea is that data defense involves using data for compliance purposes, e.g. security, reporting out to some higher institution, or minimizing risk for the company. Data offense focuses on gaining customers, increasing profits, and building a more successful business. Both strategies can be beneficial to schools, albeit in different ways. Meanwhile, lacking such strategies puts schools at a disadvantage.

Historically, most schools focus on data defense. Giving tests just to have the scores, reporting attendance and truancy, keeping track of free and reduced lunch numbers, etc. All of this data is valuable and could be used for offense but is used only defensively the majority of the time. In order for schools to successfully use all of the data they collect and to be proactive in addressing student needs, this practice needs to change. Being on defense has you reacting AFTER THE FACT when it might be too late.

To get ahead of the curve and attack needs before they arise, schools can make the switch to using their data more offensively. This change doesn’t mean that schools shouldn’t use their data defensively; there should be a healthy balance. To do so, schools need to build an intentional data strategy with identified actions. A few examples:

  • If you want to use historical data to plan for upcoming units, help teachers use historical scores to plan for the year ahead. Teachers can adjust for areas current students may struggle with by looking back at old scores.
  • Attendance trends should be viewed proactively in order to try to combat days/weeks/months when a lot of students are absent.
  • Behavior data can be analyzed to see what days/times have the most behavior issues. Teachers and staff can be proactive in preventing issues before they even come up.

Offensive data for schools can lead to real, measurable changes in the school to help students succeed.

Traditionally, this is not how data is used, so there will be struggles as you make this shift and a quality EdTech can help you make this transition. Educators who are set in their ways might not see the benefits of using data predictively. At first, schools may need to spend more time focused on their data in order to get accustomed to using data in this way. However, solving these problems and moving to a balance between offensive data and defensive data can help schools improve in the long run.

Learnmetrics has already enabled many different schools to use their data defensively and offensively:

Offensively, we track attendance trends for one school so they can be proactive in order to combat the weeks when students have been absent in the past. A large school district tracks all their progress monitoring tests with Learnmetrics so they can view tests/testing windows where students have struggled and/or done well in the past. Future test scores can be compared to these trends so teachers can potentially adjust in order to avoid negative trends. Another school uses Learnmetrics to track enrollment data so they can predict how many students will enroll next year. This means they can be active with recruiting or hold off because they know enrollment will be full. Trends are extremely useful for offensive data because schools can predict the future and adjust accordingly to it.

Defensively, we help one school with all of their state reporting. Attendance, free and reduced lunches, and IEP data are all tracked in Learnmetrics and reported to the state with customized reports we’ve created for them. Another large school district uses a dashboard to help them keep track of all relevant staff and student information they need to report to their governing body. We also do things as simple as keeping grades and test scores, generating progress reports and report cards, and tracking daily attendance.

This may sound daunting if you’ve never done anything like this before- sound too time consuming or maybe you think you don’t have the right data? We’re here to help! If you want a quick guide on how to get started using your data offensively, let us know – we’d love to share it with you!

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