College and career readiness are an essential part of our increasingly global, knowledge-based economy. With 65% of all jobs requiring some form of post secondary education or training, maximizing career opportunities for all students remains at the forefront of educational initiatives. A large, Midwestern school district has set the foundation to make systemic progress by implementing a platform to assist students, schools, and staff—all with Power BI.
Making great strides in education transformation seldom happens overnight. Effective change often depends on large-scale improvements adopted over time and implemented to benefit all constituents at the school-district level. This challenge did not stand in the way of one public school district, consisting of 11,000 students and 2,000 employees. The school district recognized that to increase their impact and achieve the outcomes outlined in their strategic plan, they needed to grow in both knowledge and accountability for student success. They partnered with BlueGranite to improve decision-making and align their analytics needs with a new student information system's roll-out. They aimed to go "wherever the data takes us."
BlueGranite used the Catalyst for Modern BI Framework to learn about district goals and develop target use cases to support college and career readiness. One of the use cases involved standardizing a district-wide Admissions Index to provide an overview of where students fared compared to their college and career goals. They also hoped to use the index with other variables like attendance and class demand.
Their existing reporting system gave them some visibility into some of this. Still, each school had a separate index without a systemic strategy. The data was being combined by an individual on an ad hoc basis, using SQL queries fed into Excel for analysis. The dependency on the individual made it challenging to have immediate insights into student success.
Jason Cantrell, Senior Consultant at BlueGranite, designed the solution with the students, schools, staff, and automation in mind. "The reporting doesn't have to be ad hoc or requested through a social channel. With Power BI, we can accelerate insights by transitioning ad hoc queries to an interactive experience that will scale across the organization."
Jason designed the College and Career Readiness report to meet the school district's needs by using key academic, career interest, and co-curricular measures to identify students' competencies, risk areas, and opportunities. He consolidated the ad hoc SQL queries into a single tabular model inside PBI and added a feature on the district's wish list: the ability to incorporate data from a web API.
The existing SQL queries were used to form a basis of a Star Schema for Power BI, including fact and dimension tables. After getting the data model ready, measures were added for the Admissions Index and Absenteeism. Finally, visualizations were created to identify students that were at risk of falling behind:
Using the modern BI solution, the district could quickly identify students who were not on track to meet their college and career goals. They could then begin to make programmatic changes to support teachers assisting at-risk students. Students could also see their performance and make proactive choices to help attain their future goals.
Now, there are plans to incorporate a secure, embedded FERPA-compliant solution for parents to check progress.
For Dawn Clement, BlueGranite consultant and former Institutional Research Director in higher education, "The school district is taking methods that colleges and universities have used for some time in admission evaluation and student success, and they're applying them earlier for the benefit of students' future goals. This is the kind of change we need to help transform education for all students."
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