ASD data dashboard helps people glimpse what’s happening in local schools

A screenshot of Anchorage School District's new Data Dashbaord taken on Nov. 3, 2016.
A screenshot of Anchorage School District’s new Data Dashbaord taken on Nov. 3, 2016.

The Anchorage School District has a new public web page that lets community members comb through district data. You can look at maps showing which schools have the best attendance or charts highlighting which students have the best reading comprehension. It was introduced during a hands-on workshop Wednesday night where community members were already putting the tool to use.

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“What are you looking at?” Theresa Lyons asked her colleague, Kelly Foran. “Do you see any of the data that you’re going to need for the grant?”

They’re looking at a computer screen filled with graphs and maps. They both run programs at the University of Alaska-Anchorage that help students succeed in college – programs that rely on competitive grants.

“And we recently lost a couple of them,” Lyons said. “We’re writing for three now.”

Lyons and Foran are looking through the school district’s new data dashboard for information to add to their applications. At first, Foran doesn’t see anything they really need, then she realizes how far the information can be broken down.

“This might give us a better idea of if we can look at, say, freshmen–how many have received an “F” in their core subjects,” she said, clicking on different filters on the page. “We can see if they are on-track.”

Lyons said having easy, efficient access to the large chunks of information means they can draw resources to the areas that need it. “So being able to prove the need is what we’re seeking to do, so that our grant can be considered as valuable and important to our community.”

She also said it’s valuable to her as a community member to be able to see what’s happening within the district.

Administrators are already using the dashboard to figure out how the district needs to change, said ASD Superintendent Deena Paramo. The data highlights disparities, like in the numbers of ‘Fs’ received by different student groups, and she said that indicates that the district is failing those kids. She said they are using the information as a whole to figure out ways to adjust teaching styles and to ask different questions.

“These data aren’t to find fault,” Paramo said. “They’re actually to say, ‘OK, here’s a space where we’re not meeting the needs of kids. How can we change that?'”

The new dashboard includes information on test scores, attendance, discipline, and other measures of student achievement. It does not include school characteristics like class size, overall school demographics, or spending on professional development.

You can find the site at http://asdk12.org/data/.

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After being told innumerable times that maybe she asked too many questions, Anne Hillman decided to pursue a career in journalism. She's reported from around Alaska since 2007 and briefly worked as a community radio journalism trainer in rural South Sudan. ahillman (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8447  |  About Anne

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