What if a student's academic data could be tracked from their first day of school all the way until they graduate college in a way that was not available before? A Kern County pilot program is on its way to do just that.
Nine local school districts are participating in a two-year Kern Integrated Data System pilot program to share real-time student outcome data to assist in making informed decisions about what is best for students, teachers and schools. Every night data will be uploaded to a "warehouse" to provide the most up-to-date information.
The nine districts selected, which include the Bakersfield City, Buttonwillow Union and Kern High school districts, represent approximately 60 percent of Kern County students, or 115,000 students, according to the KIDS website. After the pilot's end, the county's remaining 38 districts and other educational partners will join the program.
Christian Shannon, support services administrator for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, said the program formed from the Kern Education Pledge. Kern County's 47 public school districts along with higher education institutions signed a pledge to transform the educational system and ensure education remains a top priority in the community.
"KIDS is ultimately a collaborative effort born from the understanding that no institution can solve barriers in education on their own," he said. "Data plays a critical role to better understand the needs of students. Without access to real-time accurate data, it limits (educators') ability to make positive and effective decisions on behalf of their students."
The nine-person KIDS support team selected Hoonuit as its data warehouse where administrators and other educators will be able to access students' entire attendance, assessment and coursework history.
Anthony Davis, KCSOS executive director of technology, said he looked for providers that had a proven track record, reliable security and did "things by the books."
The data collected is broken down into four modules: essentials, early warning, student success and operations. The first phase got underway in June, which consists of data management and analytics tools to track and meet federal, state and local accountability requirements.
Though there have been some challenges — extracting data from various student information systems and converting to one database — security has been a top priority. Aggregate data without student identification will be available through Hoonuit, and the KIDS support team worked with the different authentication systems at the districts "so that we followed all the security protocols to get access to the data warehouse," Davis said.
District leaders say having access to real-time countywide student records will allow educational institutions to see where students are struggling and change curriculum to better suit their needs, even before they enroll at a certain school.
"We really should be looking at the whole gamut from when they’re born to adults. We should have some influence and rely on each other," said John Mendiburu, superintendent of the Rosedale Union School District. "What we do affects them in high school, it affects them when they go onto college, and we should see how they’re performing."
Being able to view data across a student's entire educational journey is "taking down the walls of individual districts and organizations and creating a true whole system for our students," Mendiburu added.
For the Kern High School District, which receives about 25 feeder districts, according to Roger Sanchez, director of research and planning, often times it does not have enough data on incoming students until they are enrolled. The expanded data available on Hoonuit will help the district learn about those students through their elementary and middle school assessment scores and attendance.
"The idea that the feeder districts would input student information systems into the Hoonuit network will allow us to have greater access to students before we get them. We’ve never had that opportunity to gather that data," Sanchez said. "That’ll be helpful to get a better picture before they enroll into our district."
Mendiburu said the data the Rosedale Union School District currently collects are utilized in conjunction with what is seen in classrooms to make decisions that affect student success. Now that countywide information will be available, he said it will allow his district and the other eight to collaborate, find commonalities and make changes to curriculum.
Sanchez also said monitoring data and seeing areas where students are struggling and succeeding will help the district understand if certain programs are working well enough to be duplicated across other schools.
"We’ve been doing some of this, but it allows us a simpler format and we’re not crunching numbers but looking at dashboards with instant information that we haven’t had access to in the past," he said. "We’ve been evaluating groups of students and how they’re doing over time, but it’s been anecdotal, not systematic."
A successful KIDS program, Shannon said, will inform current instructional practices, allow districts to implement targeted instruction strategies, provide warning signals where student intervention might be needed, illuminate bright spots that might be investigated and replicated and activate professional development needs for teachers, administrators and support staff. And the districts seem ready to elevate education.
"There’s a real commitment from the Kern Education Pledge through the lens of cradle to career. The data warehouse provides that vehicle so that student data can be reviewed over a number of years," he said. "What we have experienced is a fresh willingness to share data in meaningful ways, and that’s exciting to see throughout the pilot."
For more information on KIDS, visit www.kernkids.org/.