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Category: Data-Driven Decisions

Data Access is Easier Than Ever, But is That a Good Thing?

Tactical student data privacy questions like “What can I do right now?” should be asked by all CIOs, teachers, administrators, and policymakers in this changing landscape of data access, student privacy, and interoperability. In a recent edWebinar, Dr. Larry Fruth, executive director and CEO of the Access 4 Learning (A4L) Community, and Jena Draper, founder, and general manager at CatchOn, discussed the challenges school districts face with data access and student privacy.

Dr. Fruth suggests that school districts hit the ground running by adding privacy components and security before it becomes a “What should I do right now?” situation.

Draper says that school districts need to look at data access from all angles, from the outer layer of the infrastructure to the rogue apps used in classrooms, to create sound data access and student data privacy plans.

The Data Balancing Act

Open access to data has the potential to violate student data privacy regulations, but closed access to data has the potential to lock everything down. The “sweet spot” of data access is critical in the environment where data is no longer used in a silo but used in data conversations around graduation rates, college readiness, and career pathways.

The challenge, as highlighted by Fruth, is how much data should be accessible to the stakeholders. If they have access to too much data, it will feel overwhelming, and if they don’t have enough access, they don’t feel empowered to do what they need to do. For student interoperability frameworks, Fruth explains that the goal is to create a simple data exchange across all the different digital ecosystem applications. The reality of interoperability is that data exchange can seem to be simple but is complex. However, no matter how involved and complicated the data management issues are, it needs to be managed, moved, and secured as school districts go through daily operations.

Student Data Privacy: It’s what you don’t know

“The tools school districts should be most concerned about are the ones they don’t even know are being used,” said Draper. She pointed out that there are 3,500 edtech apps available for classroom use, but there are many more tools and apps that teachers and students find on their own. These “rogue” apps collect student data and have the potential to be harmful to students and schools.

School leaders should monitor data access in their district by communicating with teachers about the list of district-approved apps and educating them on the district’s, state’s, or region’s privacy policies and regulation. By understanding which tools and apps have access to student data, districts can build a safe student data privacy practice in line with their technology strategy.

According to Draper, since 2013, there have been over 500 student data privacy bills proposed in the United States, and this number is expected to double in 2019. States are increasing their legislation, and organizations such as CoSN and SETDA are doing work around helping districts “get their teeth around” creating sound student data policies. Access to student data is a hot topic in New York, Florida, and Louisiana, where legislators have created laws that specifically identify what school districts need to understand about what information is going out and what apps have access to their data.

Source: eSchoolNews

Driving District Master Schedules by Putting Students First


School districts should embrace student-centered scheduling to ensure all students get the classes they want and need, a panel of experts said in a recent webinar.

As scheduling for the various members of a school district — from faculty to students to staff — gets more complex, it is critical for districts to create a strong district scheduling plan that will highlight team roles and responsibilities, be specific about milestones, establish benchmark rubrics and, most importantly, panelists said, put students first.

The webinar, hosted by and sponsored by scheduling software company Always be Learning, featured executives from the company — Amy Filsinger, head of school success, Mike Rettberg, professional services lead, and Chris Walsh, head of the impact — who outlined the central role data plays in keeping up best practices.

Don’t let your data fool you.

“Your [student information system] is probably lying to you,” Rettberg said, emphasizing that

the system that schools lean on to organize operations and learning might not be providing school districts with the most up-to-date data.

Rettberg proposed a master schedule school data audit that provides opportunities to look at different data types that could be hidden in those systems. He recommended scheduling teams to be trained in strategic thinking and given tools to assist in the decision-making process by choosing data and process over traditional intuition.

Because scheduling can be a very isolating and siloed process, Rettberg also advised investing in building capacity and leveraging outside experts to ensure best practices.

The $10 million magnet board

You can almost be guaranteed to see a large magnet board with its color-coded magnets in most school buildings — but something is missing.

Teachers and time periods are always represented on these magnet boards, but “what is missing from this incredibly complex process is students,” Filsinger said, stressing that “every year, schools manage roughly $10 million on a physical magnet board with sticky notes and dry-erase markers.”

Walsh agreed and said most master schedule processes are broken. Teachers are often scheduled first, with students being the last factor in master scheduling.

Instead, districts need to come up with a new way of scheduling.

By creating a scheduling strategy, being intentional about putting students at the center, adapting as needs change and building team capacity, districts and the administrators who run them can tackle master scheduling in a strategic way.

Rettberg advised that school districts need to “avoid turning students into numbers. … We need to be looking at a process that keeps students’ names in the scheduling process.”

The road map

Master scheduling, Filsinger said, should not be a tactile activity delegated to school guidance counselors, but instead, a strategic activity aligned with district goals involving instructional leaders and building principals.

District leaders must clarify that programmatic initiatives need to come alive through the master schedule, she said. This scheduling point of view should focus on why it matters, how the master schedule can help and the resources needed to achieve district goals.

The district master schedule plan should audit and map district and school process and examine the quality of the data, the panelists said.

A realistic multi-year district scheduling plan should include producing accurate scheduling data, equitability of student/teacher course loads, and increasing underrepresented student populations in advanced courses.

In concert with the district information technology department, school districts should accelerate a district’s ability to analyze data, standardize course codes and titles across the school, and a core set of class attributes.

Source: Driving District Master Schedules by Putting Students First EdScoop November 2018
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