Education experts share how districts use data to drive proactive decisions


I love working with the Education industry and with our partners and customers. They are always so eager and willing to help that it really makes my job fun and easy. Plus, they are doing some amazing things to help districts, teachers and students. And everyone knows, teachers and schools can use all the help they can get! I've been working with a few of SAS education customers on a cool project that I think others can learn from and will be interested in, so I wanted to tell you about the project and the customers who've contributed to it here.

When we decided to create a webinar around Data Driven Decision Making in K-12, we needed to find some educational professionals that were interested in presenting.  As I serve on Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) Data Driven Decision Making advisory board, I decided to ask Ann Ware as I have known her a few years and she is the Data-Driven Decision Making Project Director at CoSN. She immediately said yes and was so excited to help.

Earlier this year, I helped interview Dan Ralyea, the Research Specialist at the Office of Instruction and Accountability, Rock Hill School District 3, Rock Hill, SC for his success story on how they are using SAS. In addition, I interviewed him (among others) for his thoughts on Best practices for Information Management, Reporting and Analytics for a whitepaper that I was working on. So I decided to see if he might want to take part in the webinar as well.  He was very excited and agreed.

I have to slightly derail here and tell you about Dan. When I interviewed him for that whitepaper I mentioned above, it was kind of noisy while we were talking. He apologized for the noise and told me that it was because he was on his way to West Virginia and had pulled over at a rest stop to talk with us. I was amazed! I told him that we could totally reschedule. He assured us that he was happy to continue with our conversation and that he was really excited to have the discussion. This is a perfect example of why working with educational professionals is just lovely. By the way, I should mention that Dan was a Math teacher at Rock Hill but now he has taught himself SAS and is their Research Specialist. Pretty impressive and even more so once you hear what he has been able to accomplish.

So, back to what I was saying…my colleague, Elizabeth Ceranowski, and I worked with Dan and Ann to develop the content and flow for the webinar. We had fun getting to know Ann and Dan a bit better during those many conference calls.

The webinar entitled "How Districts Use Data to Drive Proactive Decisions"  hosted by Education Week took place in April and we had great attendance which delighted all of us. I was the moderator and Ann and Dan discussed the benefits and best practices for creating a data-rich culture.

Ann discussed what is driving this need to be data driven and why a culture shift that has to happen to make it all possible.  She mentioned that there is greater pressure and accountability on districts and schools and that hindsight reporting is no longer enough.  Parents, community members, teachers, education administrators and policymakers want to be able to easily get answers to their questions at any time. Media outlets want to know how taxpayer money is being used and what the community is getting for its investment. Education leaders know it is no longer enough to collect data just to deliver mandated reports. It is now critical to use diverse data sources to make better, fact-based decisions that improve educational outcomes and the use of scarce resources.

Dan got more detailed and talked about how Rock Hill is able to analyze student data quickly, predict outcomes, and intervene to help students reach their potential.  For example, Dan is revolutionizing the use of data to not just weather budget cuts, but to also identify students for advanced math, standardize teacher training, and look at information across student groups in a way that the state’s own mandated student information system can’t do.  He discussed how they have evolved from a manual process to a data-driven decision proactive process by giving users secure access to the information they need, in the format they need, at the time they need it in order to allocate the proper resources to affect student outcomes in a timely manner.

All in all it was a very exciting webinar and we had many questions and responses.  Since the webinar is located on Ed Week’s site, it will only be live for several months, thus we turned the presentation into a whitepaper about districts using data as well. That way the presentation that they delivered will continue to be shared in the future.


About Author

Georgia Mariani

Principal Product Marketing Manager

Georgia Mariani has spent nearly a quarter-century exploring and sharing how analytics can improve outcomes. As a Principal Industry Marketing Manager at analytics leader SAS, supporting the education industry, she passionately showcases customers using analytics to tackle important education issues and help students succeed. Georgia received her M.S. in Mathematics with a concentration in Statistics from the University of New Orleans.

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