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6/3/2009
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Ohio Schools Use Business Intelligence To Improve Student Performance

Nationwide Mutual Insurance is helping Columbus educators use BI tools to improve student achievement in core subjects, raise graduation rates, and create a road map for overall school reform.

School will soon be out for the summer for most American kids. But before the next school year begins, thousands of educators in Columbus, Ohio, will be schooled on using business intelligence tools to help improve overall student performance.

The effort is part of an ongoing alliance between Columbus city schools and Nationwide Mutual Insurance, which has been working with the district for nearly four years as part of Nationwide's Corporate Citizenship program, which focuses on employee volunteerism and other community-related services.

The relationship involves a team of five Nationwide IT professionals, who are employed and paid by Nationwide, providing their services without charge to the school district. The Nationwide team's main focus is on helping district educators use WebFocus business intelligence tools from Information Builders to analyze student data in an effort to improve student achievement in core subjects, raise graduation rates, and help create a road map for overall school reform.

Columbus, with 126 schools, 55,000 students, and 4,500 educators, is Ohio's largest school district.

Over the last few years, Nationwide and Information Builders have built and installed a performance management system. Applications take data from nearly 20 school district and state data sources -- including attendance data, test scores, and discipline records -- and put it into an Information Builders WebFocus business intelligence environment, said Barbara Boyd, Nationwide's assistant VP of education partnerships.

Nationwide also is working with Ohio State University to populate the systems with instructional strategies known to work in urban settings. Already part of the system are some links to research regarding instructional strategies for improving competency in reading and mathematics.

While thousands of Columbus educators have already been using the system, the district is "stepping it up a notch" and will offer three days of training to expand the system's use. The district want educators to use it to aid in planning and measuring results of the system's annual All School Improvement Plan, in which each school creates an improvement plan and goals for the next school year, said Boyd.

Before the deployment of the BI-based system, efforts to help students struggling with certain skills were more reactive. But these tools help the district become more proactive in addressing student academic weaknesses. The tools "make us much more efficient and effective, driving instruction in a much more meaningful way," said Melinda Dixon, principal of Livingston Avenue Elementary School in Columbus.

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