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How Student Data Drives Academic Success

Michael Nutter

January 24, 2018

Keeping close track of student data is important not just for the purposes of EMIS reporting, but for keeping struggling students on track for graduation. Learn more about how the right data can empower both districts and learners to do better.

To effectively guide students from pre-K to graduation, districts need strong student data they can monitor to know who’s on track for success and who’s in need of additional support. But the years and years’ worth of attendance records, GPAs, and dozens of other metrics that districts collect on their thousands of students quickly add up to an unmanageable amount of information for educators to analyze.

Districts must have an effective system for collecting, reporting, and interpreting millions of data points from every student, classroom, and faculty member if they want to be able to draw proper insights from those data points. This can be challenging, but case studies from across the country are showing the way for educators to turn their raw data into workable solutions for their students.

Early Warning Programs

Many factors work together to influence graduation rates and student success, and the most salient ones are used as indicators in early warning systems: data-driven techniques for predicting which students are less likely to graduate. These systems alert educators when students are struggling with course-level material so that they can intervene and prevent those students from falling too far behind their peers.

Johns Hopkins researchers studying several middle schools in Philadelphia identified three variables that seemed to hold great predictive power for student graduation from high school: attendance, behavior, and course performance, or the “ABCs.” Sixth graders that fell behind in one of these categories had a 75% chance of not graduating six years later.

Programs like Diplomas Now and City Year are using this kind of data to identify and help these at-risk students. Interventions can take many different forms — some might pair struggling students with mentors to help them with both classwork and challenges outside of home. Others ask the families of students about their transportation or attendance problems and arrange for a solution that will allow them to get to school on time.

Reading to Succeed

Another powerful indicator of future academic success is third grade reading proficiency. Researchers at the Annie E. Casey Foundation have found that third-graders who are not reading at grade level are more likely to fall behind or not graduate. San Mateo County in California took that insight to heart and worked to intervene with students who demonstrate problems well before the third grade.

California’s grade school reading proficiency falls below the national average. In San Mateo County specifically, 44% of third-graders were not reading at grade level from 2012 to 2013. A program called The Big Lift was implemented in these schools in 2015 to attempt to address these problems, offering additional resources like preschool reading classes and summer opportunities.

Preschool is an important part of early education that can define a child’s later success in grade school, and many of the families who stand to gain the most from these programs lack access to them. The Big Lift’s full-day preschool programs and parent workshops help ensure that students are reading at grade-level before entering grade school, significantly boosting their future chances of academic success. Not only do the classes help students grapple with the immediate challenges of learning to read, but the space itself allows children from otherwise isolated communities to interact with other kids and build their vocabularies.

San Mateo has also introduced summer reading programs that have proven successful, giving parents the opportunity to get more involved in their children’s education and giving students an opportunity to make progress towards their learning goals outside of the academic year.

The Tools You Need to Make Data Work for Your District

Early warning systems are important, powerful tools for helping the most vulnerable students achieve their goals and graduate. But they depend on the ability of educators to maintain complex networks of data that can be easily accessed and interpreted. And since districts are already collecting all that data, why not adopt better processes and tools for doing so with the help of Vinson?

A data validation platform like Vinson’s CheckPoint EMIS platform makes it easy to organize, analyze, and verify critical EMIS data. CheckPoint enables Superintendents and Treasurers to examine which record sets have been verified by whom and at what time. That means not only that your EMIS submissions will be more accurate, but that the data you study and analyze to improve the academic future of your students will be more accurate as well.

Districts need all the information on students they can get to make a difference in their lives — a partner like Vinson can work with them to make sure that information is organized, accurate, and compliant with the standards of their state Department of Education.

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