Why Schools Need Data Visualization

by | Mar 5, 2021 | Education, General

When you say Data, most people’s eyes glaze over, which is kind of the point of this blog post. Data has become an overused buzzword. Everything is about data. Data-powered design, data-powered sales, data-powered curriculum. If you can name a problem, you can find someone saying that their solution is powered by Data. But in all honesty, you already have a lot of data. Tons of it. You’re probably just not using it to its full potential.

Enter: Data Visualization. When all those thousands of data points are organized into a chart or graph, what was once an incomprehensible, meaningless spreadsheet transforms into a story that is easy to understand. That’s why we believe in the power of Data Visualization. It’s not enough just to collect data. You need to transform it into useful insights and Data Visualization helps do just that.

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How Can Data Help Me?

We find that quality data, used at the right time and in the right way, can have a big impact on academic performance and administrative operations. Imagine if you could quickly pull a report that illustrated how many students were falling behind while there was still time to address their needs. Or if you could identify expenses consuming more than their fair share of your limited budget. It’s also worth mentioning that when making policy decisions for an entire grade, school, or district, you don’t have time to get into the weeds, pouring over data from each individual student. You need to see big picture trends. And when you’re armed with concrete data, you can make less feel-based decisions and more fact-based decisions.

What Is Data Visualization?

Data Visualization is the conversion of raw data into visual summary charts and graphs. When data is just numbers, dates, names, and grades, it all looks a little meaningless. Row after row and column after column of stuff that all looks basically the same. But when it’s organized, grouped, categorized, and ordered within visual charts, the patterns become clear.

Let’s look at an example:

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Visualizing School Enrollment Data

In this example, we’re looking at enrollment data for grades K-12. Without the help of Data Visualization, the raw data would be unintelligible. Once it’s been given a visual representation, however, you can glean a couple interesting insights. First, there is one grade much larger than the rest. While most grades have an average of around 56 students, one middle school grade has about 25% more. Armed with this insight, the administration will know that they need to rethink the number of teachers assigned to each grade as this class moves from year to year.

Getting Your Hands on Some Data

If you do believe that quality, actionable data can make an impact on the way you educate your students and run your school or district, then the next question is “Where do I get that data?” The answer is surprisingly simple. From the applications your staff and students are already using! Things like your Student Information System (SIS), Learning Management System (LMS) and the dozens of learning applications, communication platforms, and various school operation softwares you use today are data goldmines. When properly utilized, the same tools you use to manage all the daily operations of your school are also the best source of data to help identify opportunities for improvement.

High Quality Data Entry

The first part of any data process is the data entry. You need to collect it and your SIS is the perfect place to do this. As the backbone of your school operations, it’s where you already enter attendance, academic, financial, and many other forms of valuable data. The quality of that data, however, is paramount. Your teachers and administrators need to reliably enter correct data day in and day out. We recommend regular training with your staff to make sure they all understand how to enter their respective data points correctly and consistently. Because once you know you can rely on the quality of your data entering the system, then you can start thinking about how to manage that data once it’s there.

Reliable Data Management

Once data is in your system, it will require ongoing management. Hopefully with good training and well formed habits, everyone is entering the data reliably and accurately. But no one is perfect. Maybe a new teacher joined the staff and entered test and quiz scores incorrectly for the past month. Or maybe a student left the district and was marked as absent for several days when he should have been removed from the database. You’ll need to regularly review your data entries to avoid errors like these. We call this “grooming.” Over time, errors can pile up and negatively affect the value of your visual analysis. But with regular grooming, you can have confidence in your data. You should also continuously verify that your data is saved in the right place and that you have a secure backup available in the event of a Cyber Security breach or a physical disaster.

Effective Data Extraction

When it comes time to review your data and uncover those valuable insights, you’ll need to make sure you extract the data properly. It’s no good to anyone if you grab the wrong data! This process actually starts in the Data Entry phase with well-organized data categories. You want to make sure you have the right types of data going in so that you have the right types of data coming out. And when you start pulling data, we often find that pre-establish reports are a great way to consistently extract the right data for the right purpose. Pre-defined rules and data fields help you avoid user error and speed up the process. When it’s the end of the day before an important board meeting and you need to grab the latest academic trend data, you want to know you can get what you need on the first try.

Ready To Get Started?

Macro Connect’s team of experienced Data professionals can help your school or district start taking advantage of the power of data. From quality data entry and management to effective extraction and visualization tools, we can show you how to uncover the hidden insights that will take your academic performance and administrative management to the next level. To get started, reach out and speak with one of our Client Solutions experts today!

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