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.
In the past, "there wasn't a lack of data in the district, but a lack of information to act on it," said Boyd. The performance management system allows the district to tap the same kinds of BI-driven tools that help users in the corporate world make better business and management systems, she said.

The tools enable educators to create graphical and other reports that present analysis of student data to "help project what will happen in the future" with students based on current performance, Dixon said. The reports help identify the kinds of weaknesses individual students have in specific areas of core curriculum, such as trouble adding fractions, so that teachers know what sort of additional help the child needs.

At Dixon's elementary school, students take reading and math assessment exams every nine weeks to evaluate what the kids learned during those previous nine weeks. Teachers use pacing guides to ensure that all students are being provided the lessons that will be tested for each of those nine weeks.

"The more specific data you have and the sooner you receive it, the more improvement you'll see," Dixon said.

Using the tools to analyze the data, educators can assess how students are progressing for grade level based on what was taught those nine weeks. Because individual weaknesses are identified and intervened on, analysis of subsequent exams lets educators track how the students are responding to the extra help.

The insight also helps principals project how their students will fare in Ohio's annual standardized testing and how their schools will perform overall, also taking into account other factors, like attendance records. A student needs to have attended school for 120 days during the school year for a test score to account toward the school's overall performance on the state exams.

"Kids change, students move," Dixon said.

Nationwide has engaged researchers at Ohio State University to develop measurement mechanisms to demonstrate how well these efforts are working. At this point, Boyd said, it's impossible to tie improved graduation rates and proficiency performance to any one part of the overall program that includes using the data analysis as a guide for intervention efforts.

"These programs exist among a variety of efforts driven by the district. The combination of efforts appear to be moving the needle," she said.

As for the Nationwide IT team working with the school district, the relationship has special personal significance. "All of us are Columbus school graduates," Boyd said.

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