Interview: How Leaders in Illinois are Empowering Educators with Secure Access to Student Data

Safeguarding Data, Strong Teachers and Leaders
Interview: How Leaders in Illinois are Empowering Educators with Secure Access to Student Data

Illinois is working to guarantee access and protect privacy by equipping teachers with their students’ data through the Ed360 dashboard. Ed360 will support student instruction by giving teachers secure, near real-time access to information from the state’s data warehouse. This includes but is not limited to student roster information, course history, enrollment history, and standardized test scores. We interviewed Kara Mernaugh, the Ed360 outreach coordinator for the Illinois State Board of Education, to learn more about how this work was developed and the lessons learned for other states looking to empower educators with secure access to student data.

Why did you identify this work as a priority? Why is it important for teachers to be able to access data in this way?

Illinois’ leaders believe closing the technology gap in our schools is an important part of closing the achievement gap in student performance. Addressing this gap includes ensuring access to high-quality data dashboards in every school so educators and leaders can provide targeted support to all students. We found the challenges in making this possible varied across our districts. For example, many of our rural school districts are too small to afford the expense of their own data dashboards. In contrast, our larger school districts often spend precious funds acquiring dashboards developed by vendors. To address this issue, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) developed Ed360, a data dashboard that teachers in every district can use to inform instruction and support student learning.

To ensure Ed360 is a helpful tool, ISBE works closely with educators to understand their data needs. The result is an educator-driven and state-supported data dashboard that provides actionable information to classrooms and has been welcomed by school districts of all sizes. It’s free, mobile friendly, and designed to empower educators and administrators with secure access to near real-time data from the ISBE data warehouse.

Prior to Ed360, districts and educators had to manually compile the data that Ed360 now provides, which was a time consuming task. Ed360 provides a variety data in one place, which means that teachers no longer have to access multiple data collection systems or do manual calculations to get the information they need and want. By securely connecting data across systems and presenting it in an easy to access way, we hope to address some of the biggest barriers teachers face when using data to support student learning.

How did state leaders build local support for this initiative?

We approached the Ed360 project as a service-oriented model. A true partnership between ISBE and our school districts meant we should not mandate that teachers and leaders use the data dashboard but should instead make adoption of Ed360 optional. To build support for the project and incentivize use, ISBE integrated retired educators into the outreach team. As members of the Ed360 Outreach Team, our retired educators led the opt-in effort by helping district leaders understand the benefits of data-informed decision making.

We also engaged with a number of internal and external stakeholders directly and indirectly impacted by the design, development and implementation of the dashboard. External stakeholders ranged from local level (administrators, teachers, students) to state and federal levels (legislators, legislative staff, Governor’s Office) and the public sphere and business community. Internal stakeholders from ISBE included assistant superintendents, directors, division administrators, division supervisors and staff from program areas, including Information Systems, the ‘home’ of Ed360.

What was the hardest part of this work?

Building the initial foundation for the Ed360 project included a number of technological challenges. New business processes and technology solutions were developed, which required significant start up time. However, the team persevered and continually revisited the project plan to ensure the dashboard became and remained a helpful tool to educators and leaders.

If you had one piece of advice for other states thinking about doing this kind of work, what would it be?

Engage educators early in the project, collect continuous feedback from early adopters, and prioritize work based on educator feedback throughout the life of the project. By centering teachers’ experiences and input throughout the development of a dashboard, you will help ensure that the included data really meets their needs, which ultimately encourages wider adoption and use to better support students.

To learn more about other states leading the way in data use and how your state can do the same, check out Time to Act 2018.


Also published on Medium.