District 187: North Chicago

Evaluation, Capacity Building, Evaluation Coaching

 

This case describes PIE’s ability to create easy-to-use Google Studio dashboards of student, classroom, and school-level data across an entire school district.  These dashboards supported critical conversations about classroom learning, helped to drive individualized instruction for students, and supported school improvement planning at the district level. 

The Challenge:

District 187 is the sole school district in North Chicago comprised of a preschool, three elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school. Their mission is to empower each child to write their own story of success, and to prepare each child, academically and socially, to pursue and realize their unique purpose.  Student success is at the center of their work, and data is a primary resource which orients them to where critical supports and resources are needed across schools to achieve their mission.  At the end of the 2020-21 school year, the district’s data strategist relocated out of state and the district was unable to find a suitable replacement as the school year quickly approached.  To be able to effectively drive student success, the district knew they needed real-time, useful data insights across all classrooms and schools.  They turned to PIE late in the summer and asked for our help to provide data to answer key questions for them throughout the year: What was the impact of our summer school program?  Which students are at risk of falling behind grade level?  How can teachers and principals review data in a way that supports individualized student instruction and district goals? 

PIE’s Solution

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Prepare

As with all other projects, meeting the client where they are is a key first step in our process.  With District 187, PIE met with leadership to understand what information needed to be presented to their various constituents (e.g., principals, teachers, school board members) and on what timeline, and what was already working and what could be improved upon.   We combed through previous reports, data systems, and school and district improvement plans.  Our goal was to not only provide a seamless transition by creating reports that were familiar in content and structure, but to also to improve how they were capturing and presenting data, ensuring it was aligned to strategic priorities.   Google Sheets had been the primary data warehouse, feeding a multitude of built-in reports and charts analyzing data across schools and classrooms all within one single workbook.  PIE determined that a more flexible approach was needed so that data could be viewed in one place at a high level, and also so that constituents could interact with their own data and pull information that was important to them.  We maintained Google Sheets as the primary warehouse, but re-directed data to Google Data Studio to be presented there in a dashboard format.

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Develop

With a plan sketched out, PIE will work to develop tools to bring the plan to life.  For the district, we responded by building a Principal-Teacher Dashboard Report to look at student performance data across the school, but which also allowed them to drill down into classroom and even student level data.  This drill-down function facilitated critical strategic conversations with teachers about how to improve student performance, aligned to the individual reading and math needs of each student.  PIE also built a District Dashboard Report which looked at similar data, but at a high level, comparing school performance overall and what kind of impact summer school was having on student growth.  This report allowed district administrators and principals to engage in conversations about the best way to drive school success, based in data and aligned to the strategic goals of the district, for the school year.

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Learn & Improve

These dashboards provide a significant foundation for school leaders to learn and improve based on live data.  The principals met with each teacher in their school to review student level data and identify specific ways to use data to improve student learning for those failing behind.  The dashboard allowed for real-time insights, aligned to district goals, which helped principals and teachers begin to plan quickly and effectively for the rest of the school year.  Similarly, administrators, principals, and school board members were able to have high-level, data-informed conversations about the best ways to improve student learning across both schools and the district as a whole.  Specific student action plans, and school improvement plans, were created as a result, which will provide the foundation for driving student learning for the school years. 

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Build Capacity

Building capacity is a foundational process that PIE implements throughout the life of the project to sustain success long after contracts end. For District 187, PIE not only created new tools for the district, but piloted demonstrations and provided training, as needed, to use them.  This supported quick uptake across all district stakeholders and ensured time with the dashboards were spent planning around student learning, rather than asking questions about how to use the tool.  Continued use of the dashboards was also important from the start; we intentionally made them user-friendly and created a protocol and set of training videos so that their eventual data hires could sustain and build on them in the future.  At the end of our engagement, the district was fortunate enough to hire a new data strategist and PIE was able to provide evaluation coaching to support their onboarding process.

Results

The result of this work can be found in a demo here—the demo dashboard approximates the district’s dashboard, although the data in the demo is not linked to real student or teacher data.  The dashboard is still in use for the district, and they use it each assessment window to understand student learning needs, and create targeted supports for teachers, classrooms, and schools.