Granite School District sees the big picture in student data
Granite School District has always aimed to make meaningful data accessible to those who need it. But administrators were frustrated by limited options, narrow views, and little flexibility. They needed an analytics solution that could help students, parents, and teachers see and understand their scholastic data in a dynamic way.
The Granite School District serves nine cities in the Salt Lake City region. Administrators wanted to increase visibility into student progress. With more than 60,000 students, that was a big ask.
The IT department created student profile dashboards, pulling in data from their Microsoft SQL Server data warehouse. They share these dashboards through Tableau Server and embed them into the Granite School District portal.
Today, students, parents, and administrators can view student data and quickly identify risk indicators. The can ask questions of the data to find the root cause of an issue and take corrective action. And the IT team can use its existing Active Directory profiles to set permissions—ensuring that student data stays secure.
With Tableau, student profiles are providing value to the entire district.
Dealing with a narrow, limited view of scholastic data
From attendance records, test scores, and disciplinary actions to demographic information, the Granite School District had a wealth of information. But turning that data into actionable insight was a challenge.
School administrators wanted to see more information about the district, measure multiple performance metrics, and diagnose issues at a higher level.
Administrators got a variety of narrow reports but were left using gut instinct to decide what the reports meant in aggregate. Eventually, administrators became so frustrated waiting for timely reporting that they stopped asking for the data entirely.
“If you've got to go to multiple sources to get the data, it can be difficult to get a coherent feel for what's going on,” says Kim Brunnenmeyer, System Administrator for the Granite School District.
In addition, says Craig Schow, Business Consultant for the Granite School District, “One of the big frustrations our teachers had was spending all this time testing students. We’d make them do SAGE tests, and DIBELS tests, and SRI and more, and then the teachers wouldn't always get the data from that. They’d ask, ‘Why am I spending all of this educational time giving them an assessment and then I don't get timely results to change how I teach?’”
And when teachers did get testing data back, the information lacked important context. Teachers struggled to compare one year’s results to the next.
They also couldn’t view scores alongside proficiency expectations that would help them place a student’s score into perspective.
“They could see a score was 248, for example, but they couldn’t see what that meant in terms of approaching standard,” Craig says.
To solve these problems, Granite School District first used the reporting functionality within their single sign-on solution—offering visual reports with drill-down capabilities. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to meet the district’s needs.
“You could look at a pie chart of the ethnic breakdown of the district, for example, then go look at a pie chart or a bar graph of something else. But it could only do one thing at a time. So it didn't present a very good overall picture of anything,” Kim explains.
This made important efforts like identifying at-risk students slow and difficult. The At-Risk Reports that the original system could deliver were static and inflexible. Worse, teachers weren’t able to dig down into the underlying issues. Kim continues, “We ran some reports that tried to identify at risk students. But it wasn't in the same place as we could see other stuff. You could run an At-Risk Report and see who was at risk, but then you would have to go elsewhere to find more detail as to why they were at risk.”
This lack of visibility into student’s academic careers even affected the athletic programs. Coaches couldn’t pull a list of who was eligible to play, and had to rely on word of mouth from the teachers.
The school district needed a tool where they could see all of their data in one place—with richer analytical depth.
I had a lot of predetermined expectations of what the results would look like. When I saw the data in Tableau, it was reversed from what I had expected. That made me want to look into that data a little bit more and understand why I had this preconceived notion.
Creating a broader picture of student performance
One day, when working with a United Way worker on a school program, Kim saw an interesting visualization on the screen. This was Kim’s first exposure to Tableau.
Craig’s first look at his data in Tableau was an eye-opener: “I had a lot of predetermined expectations of what the results would look like. When I saw the data in Tableau, it was reversed from what I had expected. That made me want to look into that data a little bit more and understand why I had this preconceived notion.”
When Dale Roberts, Director of Information Systems did some research, he was pleased by Tableau’s robust analytics and the ability to create multiple views within a workbook.
Data from the school’s student information system (SIS), Discovery, is aggregated and stored in Microsoft SQL Server. The IT team uses the Microsoft SQL Server native connector to analyze data in Tableau Desktop.
Publishing analyses—like their student profile dashboards— to Tableau Server also allows them to embed the dashboards into the Granite School District Student Information Service portal.
These student profiles show a comprehensive view of students’ academic careers within the district. And Tableau Server permissions allow IT to restrict access on an individual basis.
Craig points out, “We have close to 100,000 people who could log in at any time and see data.”
This 100,000 includes parents and guardians, students, and staff members. To manage access, the team set up a .NET web application to generate trusted tickets between Tableau and the database, essentially “piggybacking” off of the security profiles already created in the SIS.
[Teachers and administrators] can see student GPAs. They can also hover over and see if a particular student has multiple risk indicators. For example, if they're an ESL student, English is a second language for them, and that may be part of the barrier if their GPA is low, or if they've failed quite a few courses.
Building a future with data insights
Today, administrators can rely on facts rather than assumptions or long-standing beliefs about school performance—and better plan where to expend efforts for maximum results.
For example, Craig points out, “The general assumption is that seniors slack off in their last year. But with this data, we can see that more 10th graders are having an issue with grades as opposed to the seniors.”
The student portal, backed by Tableau, has been a key tool for everyone concerned with a student’s scholastic progress.
“Staff members at schools have access to this. Students have access to this. And then also contacts for students have access to it. So if I'm a parent or guardian, I could go in and see this for any kids I have in the school system,” explains Craig.
Granite School District’s student profiles provide value to the entire district. Administrators can plot demographic data along with scholastic achievement data to give officials a deeper insight into issues around the students’ environment.
With these dashboards, teachers and administrators can see early warning signs of struggling students and allow the district to take timely, corrective action.
Craig explains, “[Teachers and administrators] can see student GPAs. They can also hover over and see if a particular student has multiple risk indicators. For example, if they're an ESL student, English is a second language for them, and that may be part of the barrier if their GPA is low, or if they've failed quite a few courses.”
Tableau Server helps ensure that standardized test results are available to teachers in time for them to make use of the information.
Kim says that Tableau has delivered value on multiple levels. He comments, “With Tableau…we didn't have to spend all our money for just one feature. With Tableau, we could create a lot of different things.”