City schools con­sider ex­pand­ing use of stu­dent data

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FROM THE FRONT PAGE - By Brian Zahn brian.zahn@hearst­medi­act.com

NEW HAVEN — Ca­reer High School Prin­ci­pal Zakia Par­rish had ef­fu­sive praise for the Con­necti­cut RISE Net­work at a school board com­mit­tee meet­ing Wed­nes­day, ar­gu­ing the non­profit has played a sig­nif­i­cant role in re­duc­ing at­ten­dance is­sues at the school.

The non­profit Con­necti­cut RISE Net­work, funded through the Dalio Foun­da­tion — run by hedge fund founder and rich­est man in Con­necti­cut Ray Dalio and his wife, Bar­bara — takes stu­dent data re­ported by school dis­tricts and dis­plays it in in­ter­ac­tive charts, al­low­ing teachers to view the at­ten­dance records, grades, dis­ci­plinary records, de­mo­graphic in­for­ma­tion and more of every stu­dent in their school. In to­tal, there are 23 of these data dash­boards, said RISE direc­tor Emily Pallin.

“We wanted to build tools that would be ac­tion­able for teachers for their stu­dents,” Pallin said at Wed­nes­day’s Teach­ing and Learn­ing Com­mit­tee meet­ing.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s charts, which up­date nightly, also have the abil­ity to help schools with pre­dic­tive sur­veil­lance, iden­ti­fy­ing the most fre­quent spots for dis­ci­plinary ac­tion. For in­stance, a school might have more fights in a hall­way, which al­lows ed­u­ca­tors to strate­gize for pass­ing time.

Cur­rently, RISE works with schools in New Haven, Meri­den, Hartford and East Hartford at no cost to the dis­tricts.

At Ca­reer, pre­lim­i­nary data sug­gests that 16.4 per­cent of fresh­men missed 10 per­cent or more of all school days, a one-year de­cline of 5.8 points. Ju­niors had a pre­lim­i­nary 8.6-point drop in chronic ab­sen­teeism in one year.

Par­rish said the use of data has helped her teachers give spe­cific in­ter­ven­tions and sup­port.

“We’re shift­ing from teach­ing con­tent to teach­ing stu­dents,” she said. “We wanted to see which stu­dents were on the cusp and which were in dan­ger of not ma­tric­u­lat­ing to the next grade. This dash­board for us was like a god­send.”

She said in the past, teachers used data, but they would need to pull in­for­ma­tion from var­i­ous ar­eas in order to get a fuller pic­ture.

Still, com­mit­tee mem­bers Joe Ro­driguez and Mayor Toni Harp ap­peared hes­i­tant to em­brace the sys­tem.

Ro­driguez brought up eth­i­cal is­sues about the district giv­ing stu­dent data to out­side sources. Pallin said the non­profit has a data-shar­ing agree­ment with the district and will only give stu­dent data to teachers within that stu­dent’s school.

“As a non­profit, we have no in­ten­tion of ever go­ing out of busi­ness. We want to stay work­ing with your district long-term,” she said.

Harp won­dered what could hap­pen if the Dalio fam­ily moved on from fund­ing ur­ban ed­u­ca­tion as an area of phil­an­thropic in­ter­est.

“All the data are com­pletely erased if the part­ner­ship should ever end,” Pallin said. All the same, she said the group is in the process of look­ing for more fund­ing streams should that ever hap­pen.

Harp won­dered why the district would need an out­side ven­dor for dis­play­ing stu­dent data if the data be­longs to the district, but Pallin said RISE pack­ages the data to be ac­ces­si­ble to teachers for their needs. Harp also said she would want an intuitive tool that shows par­ents some lim­ited school-based data, so par­ents would feel mo­ti­vated to im­prove their stu­dent’s learn­ing were it be­low av­er­age.

Dan Wick, a data fel­low who works in the city for RISE, dis­played some charts with stu­dent data to chal­lenge as­sump­tions about how stu­dents should be tar­geted for in­ter­ven­tions. Twenty-six per­cent of stu­dents who scored be­low grade level in read­ing in eighth grade were strug­gling in fresh­man English, he said, whereas 11 per­cent of stu­dents who demon­strated an ex­cep­tional read­ing skill in eighth grade re­ceived a D or F av­er­age in fresh­man English.

A dif­fer­ent met­ric, one which places stu­dents into “risk” cat­e­gories based on at­ten­dance and grade point av­er­age in eighth grade, was more pre­dic­tive, he said.

Sev­eral su­per­vi­sors pro­vided feed­back about how in­ter­ven­tions are al­ready in place for many of the stu­dents iden­ti­fied as high risk or “be­low ba­sic” in read­ing.

Read­ing su­per­vi­sor Lynn Brant­ley said that many of the stu­dents who are “be­low ba­sic” in read­ing al­ready re­ceive in­ter­ven­tion sup­port in high school, which could ex­plain the pass­ing rates for those who make it. Sci­ence su­per­vi­sor Richard Ther­rien said stu­dents could fail for rea­sons out­side of pre­pared­ness or abil­ity.

“We never say to teachers, ‘Don’t worry about cer­tain kids,’” said for­eign lan­guages su­per­vi­sor Jes­sica Haxhi.

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