Charter School Network Offers Its Own Data System to All Schools

| September 11, 2012 | 1 Comment
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By Lillian Mongeau

As gathering data about student performance becomes a bigger priority in education, schools are faced with different choices on how to capture that data. A slew of tech companies offer a variety of products they’ve developed for schools, but some school districts are creating their own data systems.

California-based charter network Aspire Public Schools is one of them. The school created a data system called Schoolzilla, a web-based data platform that is now available to any school who wants to use it for free. Teachers or administrators can sign up at Schoolzilla to get started. Aspire offers implementation of the system for a fee. So far, there isn’t a set price for the service; it depends on the degree of help each school needs to set it up.

The data tool, originally developed three years ago, allows teachers to synthesize data from multiple sources and create reports. Teachers can see whether the entire class is struggling on a particular math standard, for example, or whether specific students are falling behind. The idea is to help teachers decide what tack to take with individual students.

“Teachers spent hours pulling data out of the attendance system, then the gradebook, then the tests, then matching it all together.”

But academic performance numbers aren’t the only data captured. Since the platform accesses multiple databases at once, teachers can compare things like student absenteeism to their grades. Or they can compare students’ grades to their scores on standardized tests in the same subject. Or they can compare the frequency of calls home with the number of disciplinary actions needed at school.

“Teachers spent hours pulling data out of the attendance system, then the gradebook, then the tests, then matching it all together in massive Excel spreadsheets,” said Anna Utgoff, Aspires’ director of learning technology. “It was a ridiculous thing for teachers … to be spending their time on. We’re putting this all on a really flexible reporting platform, so we can make 100 versions,” of new reports depending on what teachers request, Utgoff said.

“Having all those reports at their fingertips gives [teachers] more time to plan and teach,” Utgoff added.

Aspire created Schoolzilla with funds from a combination of philanthropic donations, revenue earned by implementing the full data system in several districts across the country, and a $3.1 million Investing in Innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Like Aspire, Rocketship Education, a charter network with schools in Silicon Valley and across the country, has developed its own data system. And Aspire might spin off Schoolzilla into an independent start-up, much like LearnZillion, a for-profit education video site that was incubated at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington.

 

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  • Miller Guidance

    It isn’t a data system that is missing. In most cases it is knowing how to use different types of data, how to set cut scores and goals, and most importantly how to connect the assessment data to instruction. Also for districts with multiple schools at each level, it is important to use similar decision making routines in each of them. “At risk” must be defined the same across the district.
    I have approached the use of a data system from the other direction. First define a process for how specific data will be used, when it will be used and for what groups of students. Then design a data system that matches the way the data is used.