On the Data Analytics Team (DAT), we put data to work for teachers and school leaders at Uplift Education’s network of charter schools. We make sense of information, train staff, and develop tools to help teachers and school leaders do their thing.*
*’do their thing’ = ‘Battle entrenched social forces to make college possible for thousands of children in North Texas.’
As a team, we hope to share our struggles and insights with educational data users everywhere. But first, we’d like to introduce ourselves as we respond to some frequently asked questions about our work.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is providing tools and answers to teachers and leaders. My role is very customer-service based, and I pride myself on providing accurate and timely answers to teachers and leaders.
How does your work affect scholars?
The data we analyze and publish for our teachers and school leaders helps them facilitate one on one conversations and develop learning plans with our scholars. When a scholar is below grade level, it can be impossible to know where to even start – our data helps everyone know where that starting point is so we can all make sure our scholars are college ready.
What is a major challenge in the work you do?
Designing for the best possible end user experience when interacting with the data. This requires being knowledgeable about everything from how different data sources integrate, how to write efficient SQL queries, and how to build front ends in our data dashboards that are user friendly and easy to understand. It’s a challenge we work on every day and are constantly learning more through our interactions with our teachers and principals, our databases, and our vendors.This is where there are huge opportunities for innovation in education. This challenge is what makes the work exciting and keeps me coming back for more
How do you get better at what you do?
I read blogs on data analysis, like Statschat and SimplyStatistics, take online courses through Coursera and Microsoft Online Learning, and tinker. It’s a fun challenge to find uses for concepts I learn, like SQL window functions or parallel coordinates, that ultimately improve our team’s productivity and delivery.
What technology or new development in your field do you find exciting?
I can’t wait to see how self-service analytics changes the way teachers and school leaders understand and interact with data. With a flexible data model and the right visualization tools, a teacher could combine data points from disparate sources in a unique way that are relevant to his or her classroom. I think this is really interesting because it allows teachers to test their own (usually implicit) hypotheses about scholar achievement and teaching techniques.
Even daily assessment results can be sent to a central database and pulled into a visualization platform like Tableau, where additional factors are integrated (think attendance, behavior data, and mastery of related standards, for example). Combined with what I think is the most important type of teacher-collected data, firsthand knowledge of the student, this gives the instructor a deep way to understand how scholars are developing, as well as informing the design of future lesson plans.
Bonus: This means teachers and school staff spend a lot less time trying to manually pull together spreadsheets.