Education has always required a fair amount of record-keeping, but in the 21st century, those student learning records come with a big bonus: valuable data. For many schools today, student data is yielding important insights and positive results.
Microsoft's integrated IT solutions are helping educators transform learning with critical insights that support student relationship-building – from recruitment through retention, and from first contact to graduation and beyond. Whether schools are using student data – and technology that captures it securely – to easily identify at-risk students, adjust learning strategies for gifted students or help staff spend less time on paperwork, all education stakeholders are reaping the benefits.
No more "dropout factories"
The Tacoma, Washington public high schools once had a reputation as "dropout factories." In fact, as recently as 2010, just 55 percent of the district's high school students graduated on time – well below the U.S. average of 81 percent.
According to Tacoma Public Schools CIO Shaun Taylor, "We have so much data in the district, and we wanted to get better at analyzing trends of student success. By using predictive analytics, we thought we would be able to intervene earlier and work closely with those at-risk students. Then we would be able to reach our ultimate goal: getting that graduation number close to 100 percent."
Today, the district's goal is well on its way to being fulfilled, with the graduation rate jumping to 78 percent by 2014. How did the dramatic turnaround happen?
Working with Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS), the district developed a cloud-based data warehouse solution that captures student grades, attendance, health records and other data. School staff can view the data in Excel workbooks, which map to key district benchmarks like math and reading standards, graduation rates, school environment and readiness for life after high school.
Teachers and administrators now have 72 different ways to view the data, and can drill down to see metrics at the classroom level. And for 2015-2016, they hope to use the data to evaluate incoming 5th graders and determine whether they need math or reading intervention.
"More than anything," Taylor says, "the combination of new visionary leadership with sophisticated data analytics is helping drive improvement in graduation rates."
Less paperwork, more time for students
Better student outcomes aren't the only advantage of technology that centralizes student information — saving time and paperwork is another tangible benefit.
When the English Montreal School Board – which serves 35,000 students — wanted to tackle the inefficiencies of their paper-based records system, they worked with Microsoft and BizSpark partner emAPP to develop the Hall Monitor mobile app, allowing school staff to quickly access student data from anywhere on campus using a mobile device.
According to Assistant Director of Student Services Julie René de Cotret, "Our professionals save up to five hours a week because they spend less time traveling to get information and filling out forms. As a result, they spend more time with students, which is our primary goal."
Building on that success, the school then worked with Microsoft's partner to develop the KiDS (Key Information Data Systems) app, to streamline information-gathering and centralize data for special-needs students. The new app makes the jobs of 60 professionals who serve 4,000 special needs students significantly easier, ultimately allowing them to spend more time with students.
The KiDS app includes the same fast, easy access to student data that Hall Monitor provides, and adds a document management system built on Microsoft SharePoint Server that keeps track of all documents that are part of a student's file. This helps the schools to maintain a single, digital master copy of each form that multiple staff members can update or access as needed.
With this centralized information repository, the schools can more easily and accurately comply with government regulations for submitting documentation about the district's special-needs population. And, a process that once took weeks to complete now takes mere days, helping to ensure that schools receive the appropriate government funding to support their special education programs.
Empowering educators and students to achieve more
With access to student data and analytics, school leaders and educators can now gain insights, take proactive action, and improve learning outcomes. Education analytics are not only helping to boost teacher effectiveness and student achievement, they are also improving graduation rates and school rankings.
Whatever your challenge, Microsoft's enterprise-level IT solutions provide the tools you need to collect, manage, visualize and analyze data. And the resulting insights can mean transformative outcomes for students, teachers, schools and districts.
Learn more about student lifecycle management solutions and specifically how Microsoft helps solve critical education challenges with enterprise-level IT solutions that help schools leverage student information.