Schools Struggle with Analytics

From Kecia Ray, Director, Center for Digital Education - August 2017

Thanks for reading our August Market Insights newsletter. This month we’re talking about how schools are using data now and where they want to go in the future. Education leaders tell us they see big potential to use data analytics to improve learning outcomes. But they’re having trouble executing on this vision, presenting a clear opportunity for industry experts to lend a hand.

Despite growing interest in predictive analytics, school districts are struggling to implement the resources they need to be truly effective with data. We gathered several groups of superintendents and other school officials for a series of informal roundtable discussions on data-related topics during the June ISTE meeting in San Antonio. They told us the complexity of implementing data warehouse solutions, along with the political difficulty of eliminating data silos, continue to hinder efforts to gain a complete picture of student performance.

Districts may not have completely mastered data analytics yet, but most have implemented data dashboards to support decision-making. More than half the respondents to our 2016-17 Digital School Districts survey said they use decision-making dashboards, and another 23 percent are developing them. The most common functions are tracking student performance and information. Accountability dashboards are less common, but the number is likely to grow as the Every Student Succeeds Act takes effect.

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A recent GAO report could spell trouble for a key source of federal funds to help districts close the homework gap. The GAO uncovered massive fraud within the FCC's Lifeline program, which was updated several years ago to help low-income Americans pay for cellular and broadband service. The report, released at the end of June after a three-year investigation, found that more than a third of Lifeline customers may not be eligible for the program, and that more than a billion dollars was paid to fictitious or dead recipients. The investigation was requested by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a longtime proponent of stronger oversight of the program.

Numbers compiled by our Digital Education Navigator service show the sheer size of the education market. We’ve posted more than 2,500 RFPs in just the past 30 days. You can learn more about our newly updated Navigator sales intelligence tool here.

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Our upcoming Digital Education Leadership Conversation (DELC) events unite CIOs, CTOs, university technology leaders, K12 education technologists and senior IT industry executives from around the country to explore new ways of thinking about our schools. When I was CTO of a large urban school district, this was the most meaningful group I participated in professionally because it was uniquely relevant to my work. DELC for higher ed will be held in October in Austin, Texas. DELC for K12 is in November in Pompano Beach, Fla. Contact me if you’re interested in exchanging ideas with education leaders on the most significant issues facing education today.

We'll release two major higher education reports later this year focusing on the importance of data analytics and process automation. Our "Getting Smarter with Data" report will detail how colleges and universities can use data and analytics to improve student recruiting, rention and outcomes. And our "Business of Higher Education" report will explain the importance of technology modernization and process transformation in today's competitive higher ed environment. Contact me if you'd like to participate in either of these important projects.