Goodwill Education improves standardized test outcomes

Tableau: What challenges does the education field face in terms of embracing data?
Dan Scott, Director of Data Services: Education as a whole has been data reluctant. Just being in education alone we have this adverse culture. So we had to work really hard to try to get past that. And Tableau's helped us a lot to do that.

Tableau: Does that result in students passing their classes?
Dan: It's not simply about whether you are passing or failing and what percentage do so. Instead, it's about how can we better help you identify areas to improve.

A perfect example of that is in Indiana; we have an end-of-course assessment you must pass in order to graduate. We've actually been able to analyze all of the different standards or areas that test covers. We're able to drill that down.

What we thought we were going to find was that maybe there's two or three standards that had a greater impact. And we thought there'd be several others, the outliers, that may not really have great of an impact.

It was clear as day that there was one that stood out above all others. One standard that has a 90 percent (likelihood to) actually project how you're going to do on the test.

So if students, they can pass every other standard but if they don't have a core foundation and understanding of this one standard, they're not going to pass the test.

Tableau: Has that changed the way teachers educate students?
Dan: So what that has really allowed our English teachers now to do is step back and as they're covering all these other standards, they know they always have to go back and reiterate all the core foundation of that one standard that has the biggest impact.

So that's a good example of how we've taken something—such as state assessments—that teachers tend to be more reluctant about, spin it and actually help them and actually further drive performance. They feel like they're not only a part of the process because we give good positive feedback about them, including discussions, but also allow them to feel like we are here to help them and help them ultimately do their job better—which is the end goal of what we're trying to accomplish.

Tableau has really helped us come a long way as far as breaking down those barriers, as well as making data easy for the end user and ultimately driving performance.

Tableau: Did you find any surprises when you started looking into the data?
Dan: So whenever we do any kind of analysis, we always try to let the data take us wherever it may lead. We may spend 30 hours of that week going down several different paths that ultimately don't pan out, but when we find that path that does, now it's a much more informed path, and now we have a much greater idea of what we're dealing with and we know how to tackle and address that issue accordingly.

So Tableau has really helped us come a long way as far as breaking down those barriers, as well as making data easy for the end user and ultimately driving performance.

Tableau: How are you sharing your data with stakeholders?
Dan: We decided to use Tableau Server, and we really wanted to focus on the end user. We didn't want to be bogged down with people having to use VPN to connect. We wanted something that was accessible wherever they were.

That meant if you're at work at your desk—that's great! We want you to have access. If you are out and about on a meeting and you want to use the iPad, you can use your iPad right then and there, pull up results.

In fact, my boss does that all the time. You see him walk into a meeting, he always has his iPad with him. And inevitably, as they start their discussion, he'll start pulling up the numbers in Tableau as they go along and will actually base his questions and responses and everything based off the real-time data he's seeing.

We always do this thing called a data review where we get everyone together from a school and we go through all their data. We're in this meeting and the next thing I look around as I had my boss at one end of the table that has the iPad out looking up things, someone else has their laptop out looking up things. The person next to me and I pull out our smartphones, are going through, flipping through the dashboards as we're talking about something.

It was really interesting because it's a really good depiction of how accessible Tableau can be when you deploy it the correct way. Literally at that table we had all three ways, you know, laptop, tablets and smart phones all right there, everyone using it a different way, coming to the same conclusions and it really shaped the discussion we had.

Read more about how Goodwill Education Initiatives is using Tableau.