Hamilton County Department of Education video transcript
Interviewee: Kirk Kelly, Director of Accountability and Testing
TEXT: SMART IS... raising school graduation rates with data modeling
Chattanooga, Tennessee is the home to the Hamilton County Department of Education
Which oversees K-12 instruction of 42,000 students by 3,000 teachers
Making it the fifth largest district in the state and the region’s largest employer
Kirk Kelly: Being in education, you’re really in it to help the students. If their results are better,
then we’re doing what we really want to do. And that is to make it better for each and every
student so they’ll be college and career ready.
But we were really struggling. Our graduation rate was around 70%. We’ve had one high school
that has struggled and this high school had a graduating rate of 24%.
With all departments of education, you’re going to have a data in different silos - data is
everywhere. We needed to have some type of way of being able to provide information, so that
we could make decisions.
And so we started creating student databases. You’ve got elementary test data, you’ve got ACT
test data. You’re talking about behavior, you’re talking attendance, and all of those different files
can be brought together to give us a complete picture of what’s going on in our schools in our
We’re able to provide teachers with a drill down that allows them to look at what the student did in
the past, their current status and also to predict the likelihood of what they are going to do on
future tests. And what provides us with is an opportunity to intervene and provide additional
support that’s tailored to that student based on the predictive analytics.
We are also able to take those analyses, form patterns and see that there are other students that
are following in this patterns and try to provide additional help in maybe changing the climate or
some of the practices that we have at the school.
You can actually go in and customize an instructional program based on data that will work for
that individual school and the staff that they have. Parents can go and meet with their local
educators and actually have the data provided that’s unique for their son or daughter that really
gives them a good idea as to where they stand in terms of results and also what they need to do
as parents to help get them better.
And what it’s done for us is we’ve been able keep more students in school and that’s reduced our
dropout rate, increased our graduation rate. We’re expecting, when we do the final report that our
graduation rate is going to be up to an 80 %.
The County as a whole has a perception that we’re doing a better job. And so, there is more
pride in the educational system from the community standpoint. And providing good data has
been a key to that.
What makes IBM so attractive is that we basically have all of the tools that we need in one place.
Without software like SPSS, we would not have been able to do it.
You’re talking about the quality of life for human being. So that’s the greatest thing that you can
do if you can enhance a human, anybody’s quality of life and that’s what we’re looking to do as
TEXT: The Hamilton County solution is based on:
IBM SPSS® Modeler
IBM SPSS Statistics
Hamilton County got smarter by studying the underlying patterns of poor student performance so educators could intercede early on.
- Instrumented: Student performance data from all grade levels of the county’s 78 schools is uploaded to Hamilton County’s data warehouse.
- Interconnected: Hamilton County’s administrators can track student performance across their educational life cycle, enabling them to better understand the leading indicators of future performance problems.
- Intelligent: By compensating teachers based on their ability to beat data-driven benchmarks, Hamilton County is using predictive analytics to encourage performance improvements for both teachers and students.