To help its students realize their potential, a school board in southwestern Ontario wanted to move beyond trailing indicators and basic use of data analysis, and give educators a deeper, more holistic understanding of students’ needs.
The school board teamed up with Compass for Success to implement enCompass, an analytics platform built on IBM technology that is used to monitor students using data sources including achievement data, attendance, and anecdotal notes.
Providesa one-stop shop for all student data, from achievement results to teachers’ anecdotal notes
Putsinformation at educators’ fingertips, enabling them to take swift action
Simplifiescommunication, helping educators share insight about student experience
Business challenge story
Nurturing student achievement
Research shows that investment in education throughout a child’s early years has a significant impact on outcomes after students leave high school. It is well-documented that having a high school diploma unlocks better career opportunities—in fact, it’s estimated that on average, students who don’t graduate high school earn around CAD 330,000 (USD 260,000) less over their lifetimes than those who do.
For one school board in southwestern Ontario, which serves both elementary schools and high schools, the goal is to continuously monitor students to ensure that they remain on track for graduation.
A researcher at the school board elaborates: “Students who don’t reach the average standard for reading by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school than their peers. To help every child reach their full potential, we need to make sure that we give them the right support all the way through their school career. People learn in different ways, so it’s very important to tailor our teaching to meet each student’s unique learning needs.”
The board is utilizing a variety of tools to help teachers drive effective pedagogy to meet the needs of students. One of the most important initiatives is to harness technology to gain insights from its data efficiently and accurately.
The researcher comments: “We were sitting on a wealth of data that, if we could bring it all together, would give us great insight into students’ individual learning needs. For example, report cards and test scores were stored in different systems and in different formats, which made it very difficult to get a clear overview of student performance.”
Holistic insight into student performance
Eager to delve deeper into student data, the school board deployed enCompass—a suite of cloud-based data warehousing and analytics applications from local education software provider Compass for Success.
enCompass is an easy-to-use online portal where teachers can enter data on student assessments and other performance indicators, and continually monitor progress. The reporting and analytics capabilities of the enCompass platform are built on IBM® Cognos® Analytics and IBM SPSS® Modeler.
The researcher elaborates: “Teachers are used to entering achievement data into online systems for report cards and real-time gradebooks, so it’s not a big leap to transition to this type of tool. For example, we encourage teachers to add comments based on their expectations for each student, and make notes about successful techniques they’ve used to help that student learn.
“Test scores don’t tell the full story; enCompass gives us a more rounded view of student achievement and progress. It helps us track how teachers expect students to perform holistically, and whether they are meeting those expectations."
Teachers also use enCompass to log the conversations they have with students’ parents, and share personal details they may be aware of—for example, if they know that a student is going through a difficult family situation, which might affect their attendance, behavior or performance at school. enCompass brings all the communication together in one place so that when teachers log in, they have all the data right in front of them to make informed decisions.
Thanks to the solution’s innovative predictive modeling capabilities, educators can also use enCompass to create “profile groups” for students who are not likely to graduate. These profile groups help identify both group and individual student learning needs for the educator to consider when planning their lessons and assessments.
The researcher notes: “Because enCompass includes the IBM Analytics solutions, we can put together models and run predictions really quickly and easily. This means that instead of having to engage in a year-long project to build a generalized model for the entire school district, individual schools can build their own models in as little as 30 seconds—it’s so empowering.”
Helping teachers engage with students
Today, the school board is making extensive use of enCompass to track academic performance, identify each student’s strengths and learning needs, to precisely program for students and groups of students with similar profiles.
The researcher states: “With enCompass, educators have all the information they need right at their fingertips: achievement levels, large-scale assessments, anecdotal notes, contact information, attendance, behavior and more. The platform helps to paint a complete portrait of each student, so teachers can quickly identify student learning needs and provide the appropriate programming to help them achieve their potential.”
The enCompass solution is also improving teachers’ ability to identify at-risk students, and enable earlier intervention when students are not on track for graduation.
The researcher says: "By the time students get to high school, if they have already fallen behind, it can be very challenging to get them back on course for graduation. So as soon as a student starts to struggle at any point in their school career, we need to be able to highlight the problem and take immediate targeted action.
“It is imperative to support students during difficult times, for example when they make the transition from elementary school to high school. Having a tool like enCompass allows educators from grade 8 to share important information about student strengths and needs with the whole team of educators in high school."
In addition to giving teachers deeper insight into the student, enCompass also makes the process of collecting, analyzing and visualizing data much more efficient.
The researcher notes: “Educators no longer need to search manually through different systems and data sets to find what they’re looking for: it’s all there in the enCompass portal. We’re beginning to use enCompass to write report cards based on comments that they have previously recorded in the system, instead of creating the entire report card manually. That alone could save a teacher 40 or 50 hours of work per semester.”
She concludes: “Supported by Compass for Success and IBM technology, we’re making it easier than ever for educators to identify, engage and support students. By detecting problems sooner and intervening earlier, we are in a stronger position to help every child reach graduation and successfully transition to their post-secondary destination."
About A school board in Southwestern Ontario
This IBM client is a K-12 public school board based in southwestern Ontario, Canada. The board serves more than 40,000 students and 3,500 staff across 50 schools and four adult education centers.
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Compass for Success is a leading provider of education software solutions based in Ontario, Canada. The non-profit organization works with more than 50 school boards across the province, helping them harness data warehousing and analytics technology to deliver relevant and timely data to teachers and administrators, with the aim of improving student outcomes. To learn more about products and services from Compass for Success, visit: www.compassforsuccess.ca