Chicago charter school organization uses Google Data Studio to visualize student progress

Since 2011, Distinctive Schools has adopted a student-centered approach to learning at the eight public charter schools they manage in Chicago and Detroit. Katie O’Connor, their Chief Schools Officer, explains that “we are committed to students being seen and heard in their education. At Distinctive Schools, personalized learning means each experience is designed with the child at the center.”

Personalized learning, which encourages students to learn at their own pace with support from teachers, requires educators to pay close attention to each individual student’s progress. That, in turn, means pulling together lots of information from many different platforms—from test sites to learning management and student information systems. “Data collection and analytics advance our personalized learning efforts because educators are able to make in-the-moment decisions to adjust instruction,” O’Connor says. “Deeply knowing each individual, including the data that support their learning, are the foundation of personalized learning.”

Providing a secure, centralized hub for student and school data

To ensure teachers and staff have the tools they need to foster students’ success, Anthony Claypool, Director of Data and Assessments, works to bring data sources together and make connections between them. As schools accumulate more and more data through technology, educators need to be able to marshall insights to benefit students—without advanced training in data science or expensive site licenses.

With Google Data Studio, you're not spending so much time extracting, transforming, and loading data. You're spending more time analyzing and getting insights.

Anthony Claypool, Director of Data and Assessments, Distinctive Schools

In 2016 Distinctive Schools adopted Data Studio, Google’s free data visualization tool that integrates with the G Suite for Education platform they were already using. For Claypool, the goal was to break down silos of data to improve accountability and student outcomes: “when you have one piece of evidence trapped over here and one piece of evidence trapped on these other disparate platforms, it's just really inefficient to navigate. That's one of the things that we're solving with Google Data Studio.”

O’Connor and Claypool started convening quarterly Campus Dashboard meetings, where they collaborate with leadership teams at each site to assess the most recent school data in Data Studio. With real-time monitoring of student progress, the tool supported their teachers with data-driven insights about academic performance, classroom behavior, and social-emotional learning. By combining data from internal sources like Google Sheets with external public data sets, Data Studio helps teachers analyze trends across schools and adjust their lesson plans. The image shows how Distinctive Schools can assess daily NWEA MAP results by grade as they come in. Sarah Schielke, a Multi-Tiered Support System (MTSS) Coordinator at Distinctive School’s CICS West Belden campus, says, “we examine core curricular data on ELA and Math to know what to focus on for the next unit or week.”

Saving time and resources for teachers and staff

Schielke reports that previously “gathering data took a lot of time and energy for teachers and everyone worked differently so it was hard to coordinate.” Teachers who used to spend hours building their own spreadsheets can now customize a dashboard and generate reports with a few clicks. In adopting Data Studio, O’Connor says that “a free, familiar G Suite interface was critical” and ease of use was key: “like any Business Intelligence tool, getting people access to info is only the first step. The real challenges are getting the insights from the data and making adjustments accordingly.” According to Claypool, “Data Studio is very intuitive to use and it sits on top of infrastructure that Google keeps reliable and secure, which is really huge. With Data Studio, you're not spending so much time extracting, transforming, and loading data. You're spending more time analyzing and getting insights.”

In the future, Claypool would like to see students participate in monitoring and tracking their own progress through a “Baseball Card” profile that brings together data from non-academic as well as academic sources. “A student’s data profile isn’t just test scores,” he says. “It’s who they are as people. Data Studio doesn't tie us down to just one source of data. One of the next-generation learning challenges is figuring out how to use multiple measures of assessment to make responsible decisions and measure what a student knows.”

Schielke adds that Data Studio’s dashboard helps both students and teachers celebrate their achievements: ”we can tell a better story of student success because we have more data points from more sources. Data Studio can open new doors to instruction and provide a whole picture of student growth.” The results are already encouraging: for example, they have seen an 81% improvement in ELA scores across all their K-5 grades over the course of one school year. O’Connor concludes that “making student-centered instructional decisions requires information, and Google Data Studio has helped us put an unprecedented amount of information in educators' hands.”

Making student-centered instructional decisions requires information, and Google Data Studio has helped us put an unprecedented amount of information in educators' hands.

Katie O’Connor, Chief Schools Officer, Distinctive Schools

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