El Paso tracks student wellness and preparedness during COVID-19 to make sure education reaches all


Built surveys to help take action on student health, nutrition, and technology needs during COVID-19
Tracked and fine-tuned student engagement and participation throughout remote learning
Empowered teachers and administrators to follow through on precise interventions as needed

The El Paso Independent School District (ISD) teaches 55,000+ students in west Texas, including a majority population that is economically disadvantaged, and nearly one-third with limited English proficiency. Despite these challenges, the district has always been forward-thinking about finding ways to engage all students and achieve maximum participation. With COVID-19, this mission became more important than ever, with many students at risk for falling behind as teaching moved from the classrooms to being fully online.

The district, which had already adopted a 1-to-1 student-to-device policy for several years, used spring break for coming up with a remote learning plan, and then took another week to train teachers and administrators. When the new curriculum came online at the end of March, El Paso ISD wanted to make sure it had a firm grasp on how much education was reaching students, and how to intervene as needed when students were in danger of falling behind.

Tracking learning and participation to ensure mission continuity

Using Tableau, they created a series of dashboards for tracking and reporting learning activities. The first dashboard took in results from a district-wide survey that checked on each student and their family, with the purpose of detecting and remedying specific needs. Using reports from this dashboard, the district could take necessary action right away. If devices weren't working, the district could send out new ones. If a family lacked wi-fi access, they could get their own hot spot. If they had nutritional or medical needs, the El Paso ISD food services could be dispatched, and school nurses could conduct telehealth sessions. In cases where households couldn't be reached for the survey, truancy officers could investigate to make sure the students were healthy, safe, and able to continue to learn.

Next, it was important to make sure learning participation rates were as close to 100% as possible. Additional dashboards took in data from Schoology, the district's remote learning platform, and TEAMS, its student information system (SIS). Viewing data at the district and school levels, and then filtering it down to specific populations or individual students, made it easy to quickly identify students at risk and report each case to the relevant principal or teacher.

“Having the dashboards, and being able to quickly export customized reports, meant we could readily engage school administrators,” said Steve Clay, Executive Director of Analytics, Strategy, Assessment, and public education information management systems (PEIMS) for El Paso ISD. “As soon as we noticed problematic numbers, we could hand them a list of students and say: Here are the ones who aren't engaging—what's your plan, what haven't you tried yet, and how can we get you some help?”

This granular level of reporting became even more essential when the Texas Education Agency (TEA) stipulated in early May that all school districts must report student engagement metrics throughout the pandemic. Because of its work in Tableau, El Paso ISD already had the data to meet TEA guidelines and readily reported its progress on strengthening learning participation according to the agency's crisis codes: Engaged, Not Engaged, and Not Contactable.

In addition, the district could show vast improvements on other metrics, such as invalid grade reporting due to the lag in training on new COVID-era, participation-based grading systems. At the start of their reporting, the district showed more than 20% of grades in TEAMS as being mismatched with the most recent guidelines, affecting more than half of all students. Using this data, administrators directly contacted and coached the teachers with impacted students, and within a few weeks they reduced the invalid grades to 1.9% impacting only 7.7% of all students, with the trend continuing to improve toward 100% valid.

Having these dashboards, and being able to quickly export customized reports, meant we could readily engage school administrators.

Maintaining an informed, agile COVID-19 response that makes sure kids learn

When a crisis strikes, having an established data culture can mean the crucial difference between making wild guesses and taking immediate action, as the COVID-19 response at El Paso ISD illustrates. For example, at a weekly meeting with all of the district's principals, the data team can quickly share the latest data analytics, answer questions that interrogate the data further, and then instantly produce action items for each principal based on the specific interventions needed at their schools. All of this orchestration helps the district function as a unified, highly focused and empowered unit at a critical time.

“Everyone's collaboration has really helped us be as responsive as possible during this crisis,” said Albert Vega, Senior Data Analyst. “Between the IT team rapidly building out the customized front end for our surveys, the dashboards providing easy-to-read visualizations of our blended KPIs, and Tableau making it simple to drill down in the data to view trends at the school, grade, teacher, and individual student levels—we can make sure students have what they need to stay fully engaged.”

As El Paso anticipates reopening its classrooms, the data team is reviewing feedback from surveys sent to families and staff to gather input on preferred instructional models: face-to-face, virtual, or a hybrid of the two. The various campuses are visualizing this data to identify and plan for the number of students that can be safely accommodated in each classroom, allowing for social distancing precautions, in the event the district proceeds with reopening in person.

To see example visualizations from El Paso ISD and other K-12 institutions using Tableau, visit the Tableau Use Cases in Education site.