By Abby Spoerl / March 27, 2018

Fundamentals of EdData, Part 2: [Education Has a Data Warehouse Problem]

Continuing with our Fundamentals of EdData series, we are taking time to identify and talk about one of the largest barriers that exist in the world of EdData: Data Warehousing and its lack of prevalence and accessibility. If this problem is not solved, educators are at risk of not being able to use their data. In many cases, it’s stuck in silos or formats that do not allow for aggregation and analysis leaving you without the necessary information you need to make a multitude of decisions that support and guide your organization.

When thinking about data warehousing in education, a lot of questions come up:

Should it cost you an exorbitant amount of money to adequately house your own education data?

Why can’t your data all live in the same place and be easily accessible?

Why am I spending countless hours logging into 6 different sites to prepare for a meeting for one student?

These questions and frustrations are commonplace in our conversations with educators and unfortunately, there isn’t much hope for suitable answers and/or solutions. Often, the only solutions available are too costly, time-consuming, and require users to have an extensive understanding of database querying language or plotting libraries — making them inaccessible for schools that can’t afford a dedicated IT team. Why is our EdData being held hostage? In comparison to other industries, education stands at a tremendous deficit without effective warehousing.

This time of year, educators are finding themselves particularly inundated with data — perhaps more than they were on Day 1.Standardized testing data, as one example, increases around this time of year, leaving you struggling to stay afloat in a sea of data — all your precious data scattered across a vast amount of space, in a variety of formats. One source has PDFs, another CSVs and a third can’t be exported from their system at all! This leaves educators with a very time-consuming and possibly insurmountable problem.

Why is this a problem?

Educators need outcomes and insights out of their data.

  • What good is your data if it can’t be leveraged? Student achievement and growth is of the highest priority. Using valuable data to help guide and inform decisions is one of the best ways to achieve those goals.
  • If you have a data warehouse that works with you by allowing all of your data sources to “talk to each other,” you are able to layer and visualize data sets resulting in powerful information — not just attendance rates or standardized test scores but how attendance affects growth/mastery in a given EOY test (which you can use to make truly informed decisions at your organization).

Time is of the essence.

  • The time-demands on teachers and administrators are already high. When you add in complicated data aggregation and formulas, you can almost guarantee the time and resources available for this are not available or sustainable.
  • Take PowerSchool for example, they may warehouse your data, but getting what you need out of the PowerSchool system can be just as tedious and time-consuming as trying to aggregate the data yourself, in the first place.

Resources are limited.

  • Education budgets are notoriously tight — schools can’t afford to waste even a cent. A solution to the problem needs to work with what schools can afford to pay. Effective Data aggregation paves the way for smarter work, not harder work, and can help identify areas in your organization where it would make the most sense to cut extraneous costs or reallocate money.
  • Automate and layer data from multiple sources freeing up time and resources!

Take for example a school district in Rhode Island that is focused on student achievement, reporting out for ESSA school-by-school spending data (required by 2019), and providing more data transparency to the public. This is an entire school district working on a problem with the help of the “The Education Week Research Center [who] used a series of calculations provided by the department to aggregate school-level costs and then map them out so that they’re easily comparable.” How can we expect single-site schools at a base level to afford this or have access to this level of resource? By very definition, data warehousing is, “…a core component of business intelligence.” Education cannot persist without this core need being met. Finding a partner-in-education to help with this might feel daunting, but a necessary step when attempting to properly warehouse your data nonetheless.

Here is a list of things you can look for when trying to solve your data warehousing issue to prepare yourself for future success:


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