In the current climate of local, state, and federal accountability amidst many economic challenges, K-12 school districts are often left to fix new and ongoing problems with little or no resources. At the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex Board of Cooperative Educational Services (WSWHE BOCES), we aim to assist school districts in identifying concerns before they become problems, and utilizing limited resources in the most efficient and effective ways.
In 2009, WSWHE BOCES Data Analysis Services began offering predictive analytics assistance to the 31 component school districts that serve more than 42,000 students in upstate New York. Through data modeling, our office helps district staff weed through years of data housed in many different places to discover the most significant predictors that will guide student learning. Using IBM analytics software, this process can be updated on a regular basis and new data can be incorporated to improve model accuracy and predictor selection.
The result for districts is that they are able to focus on skills that have the biggest impact on overall performance for certain students. Data conversations are streamlined and resources can be allotted for materials or training that will help teachers address the skill areas identified. Also, working with sharper focus, teachers and administrators are able to coordinate efforts across grade levels – assisting students as they advance through school and transition to post-secondary pursuits.
The main objectives of this work are to increase student achievement on annual assessments and improve graduation rates. Early results are promising. After one district targeted early literacy across four elementary schools for one year, English Language Arts proficiency among third graders increased from 56 percent to 71 percent.
As more school districts implement strategies based on predictive analytics, the positive impact on student learning outcomes will become more apparent, and stakeholders will agree that district expenditures have been allocated to yield the most successful results.
Nicole Catapano, Ph.D., is the Data Analysis Coordinator for the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex Board of Cooperative Educational Services in upstate New York.