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Data interoperability: How Uncommon Schools is breaking down barriers

Guest Author: Editor

Uncommon Schools is on the path toward data interoperability so they can provide educators and administrators with real-time enrollment, attendance, discipline, and assessment data. This information will support student achievement growth and success in transitioning each student from elementary to secondary grade levels. Uncommon is committed to reviewing student data often to determine new ways to continue to put their students first, and the introduction of a data standard is essential to strengthening and simplifying this process. The Ed-Fi Data Standard will provide immense value for Uncommon, as it will allow them to align on data definitions and concepts across its schools, and get the most value out of the tools they are already using in the classroom.

In these audio interviews, you will hear from Laura Ginsberg and Darren Skott of Uncommon Schools on how CMOs plan to enhance the education of their students through the introduction of the Ed-Fi Data Standard.

Audio Interview: Darren Skott

Audio Interview: Laura Ginsberg

Transcript: Darren Skott

Darren Skott: My name is Darren Scott. I’m the director of IT data management at Uncommon Schools. Technology is utilized in a variety of ways at Uncommon, and one of the key ways is to provide capabilities in the classroom to allow our teachers to be able to teach it and provide instruction to our students. It’s also used to run our organization. We’re obviously a large organization with 53 schools, so it requires a lot of systems and data and technology to run that organization.

One of the challenges we have is just the size and scope of our organization, because we actually span multiple states. It means that when it comes to standards of how we get things done, it does add complexity. Even the data we utilize within our systems, there’s different expectations of how data can be used within states, probably because of state reporting requirements the data isn’t necessarily aligned across the states. We have the complexity because of that.

IT is using the organization to help drive instruction. So it’s really important to us to be able to utilize data around how our students perform on assessments, their grades, and how teachers are performing, to utilize that data to figure out what we teach and how we teach it to our students. We have a variety of different processes and systems to collect that data, which means that we have to teach and educate a lot of our staff a variety of different ways to make these things happen. So that’s a challenge.

We’re really looking at Ed-Fi as a data standard to really help us align on data concepts and data definitions across our organization, rather than us having individual definitions by region or by school. We’re utilizing the Ed-Fi set of rules circled around common definitions, common use of data, that actually aligns not only in our schools but aligns our organization with a broader K-12 environment as well.

We want to be able to provide access to data via dashboards and reports that really allow data-driven decisions to be made by our instructional leaders, by our teachers, on a near real-time basis, so we can improve our students and the work that they’re doing as quickly as possible.

Transcript: Laura Ginsberg

Laura Ginsberg: My name is Laura Ginsberg and I’m a senior associate director of IT project management at Uncommon Schools. Uncommon Schools is a charter management organization with 53 K-12 schools. Technology is used every day in our schools, both from an operational standpoint but also from an instructional standpoint by teachers at our schools to constantly enhance the education that our scholars receive. Technology enhances the education we’re able to give our scholars because we’re constantly looking at the data on a regular basis to see what’s working, what’s not working, and to make improvements so that we’re constantly thinking of our scholars and putting them first.

We use a variety of technology tools in our classrooms. This can pose a challenge at times for our teachers who are oftentimes less tech savvy, but also, we find that we have tools that don’t always speak with one another. The interoperability of our tools is crucial to allow us to get the best value out of the tools that we use.

In an ideal world, the technology tools would be easy for teachers to use. It would both be easy for them to input the data, but also to get the data out on the other side and to use that data to their advantage to offer better instruction for our students. We’re a very data-driven organization. We use our data on a regular basis to enhance our instruction, to change instruction based on student needs and making sure that we’re offering the best education for our students.

Ed-Fi is crucial to the future of our data usage at Uncommon. We’re a very data-driven organization, and we collect a large amount of data. We have schools in three different states though, and that can often pose a challenge when collecting data. So Ed-Fi allows us to collect the data in a unified way and allow our systems to speak with one another.