During this time when student test scores convey doom and gloom and education budgets are pinched, I jump on positive news when I get it. I came upon some good news recently during a conversation with FirstLine Schools in New Orleans, Louisiana. I spoke with Sia Karamalegos, director of data management, and Rebekah Cain, director of development and communication. FirstLine Schools is a charter management organization managing five public schools. The organization has approximately 2,500 students and 300-400 employees and is a grant recipient in QlikTech’s Change Their World program.

Part of the student dashboard at FirstLine Schools.png

In the words of Gillian Farquhar, QlikTech’s customer ambassador, “Like in most urban environments across the United States, lots of kids in New Orleans come from broken or economically challenged homes and the public education system has had a hard time producing the success it hopes for. Charter management organizations like FirstLine Schools intervened to make a difference early in children’s lives.”

Sia Karamalegos of FirstLine Schools said, “A lot of schools are trying to reform across the United States. A big aspect of reform in public education is using data to drive instruction. A challenge with this, though, is that school leaders, teachers, and special education and intervention staff are generally not data experts. They need to be able to easily access and make use of the data. But the diverse nature of the source data systems we use presented a challenge. Some systems permit users to export data while others don't. The data is in many different formats and the systems each have their own login. For teachers and administrators and even network administrators, this situation created a barrier to being able to make good use of data. People needed a better way to get a complete view of school and student performance.” 

Part of the admin dashboard at FirstLine Schools.png

Rebekah Cain added, “School leaders have a big job. They are already working really hard. So any way we can make it easier for them to access the data they need to do their jobs, the better. Then they can spend their time on things that will improve instruction instead of looking for data.”

Using QlikView, FirstLine Schools is focusing on:

  • Student and school performance and success. FirstLine Schools is collecting data about students such as grades, classes taken, attendance, demographics, behavior (e.g., merits and demerits, suspensions, etc.), and whether the student is in intervention (performing below grade level). The data team assembles data from myriad back-end systems into a cohesive QlikView app that gives constituents a well-rounded perspective on a scholar’s “at-riskness,” trends in a student’s progress over time, and whether the approaches the school is taking with the scholar are the right ones. With QlikView, stakeholders can explore the data, toggling among students or schools or selecting a particular quarter—all the while seeing only the data they are supposed to see. “If a student is not progressing the way we expected,” said Rebekah Cain, “we know what we are doing isn’t working – so we need to add additional resources.”  In addition, a lot of the data the schools track is not about student grades. Schools conduct progress monitoring and interim tests to see if they are improving across large student populations.
  • Administrator dashboard. New Orleans is an open enrollment city; students don’t have to live in a particular neighborhood to attend a school there. What this means for FirstLine Schools is that it has to recruit students. To aid in recruitment and support people who are writing grants and performing other compliance tasks, FirstLine Schools uses QlikView to track and present statistics like enrollment, year-to-date attendance, tardiness, and truancy. Stakeholders can get the info they need when they need it. They can drill down into school or grade level and can select factors like special education status, homelessness, gender, or others to get just the relevant stats they need. QlikView logs into the various source systems automatically using scripts so the data in the apps is always up to date.

I asked Sia about FirstLine Schools’ “a-ha moments” with QlikView. In one example, they noticed that for different schools in the system, the rate of in-school suspensions vs. out-of-school suspensions had changed. This realization sparked further investigation. Moving forward, FirstLine Schools is planning to tie in additional data to identify which intervention programs are having the greatest success so they can spread best practices.

Are you inspired? I am.