Want to know something cool?

One point of view, taking note of sundry "cool" things that affect-- or could affect-- the education business.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Entrepreneurial District Sells Management Tools

Want to know something cool? According to eSchool News, a public school district in Virginia has developed a data management and reporting system so powerful, they're actually commercializing it for use in other districts. The article, available <here> as of this writing, describes the system built by Fairfax County Public Schools-- known as Education Decision Support Library-- as a bevy of individual and cumulative data culled from various sources. Student performance, classroom performance, curriculum, attendance, etc. all feed to EDSL, allowing teachers and administrators to conduct deep searches for trends, gaps, and opportunities.

In one example, a school was having trouble with a standardized test in elementary social studies. The teacher ran a district-wide report of performance on the test, and identified two buildings where students were exceeding expectations. Then the struggling school held meetings with the successful teachers, identified best practices, and implemented new teaching modalities. The next year, the school hit 96% on the achievement test.

Data, in the right hands, can be powerful tools. In this particular case, Fairfax developed a system of capturing data in a useful and accessible way, enabling outcome-driven decisions and collaborative establishment of best practices. That they have built such a system is commendable; that they can now export their system, to enable other districts-- and, ostensibly, to widen the database to incorporate multiple districts-- is even more remarkable. Imagine the power of such a system running state-wide. Successful districts easily identified, gap analysis in real time, opportunities to implement best practices across counties, districts, and even within a single building ... these are benefits that translate directly to student success.

Kudos to Fairfax County Public Schools, for their vision, their implementation, and their entrepreneurial philosophy. As data systems become more interoperable, similar decision management tools could apply to everything from transportation to facilities management to healthcare to nutrition. Educational systems learning in dynamic new ways to teach and operate more effectively ... taking "data management" out of geekdom and straight to the report card.

Cool, huh?

How will it shake out? Comment this blog, and let's see where the conversation leads.
For great news, views, and resources for educators, check out The Balance Sheet p
ublished by South-Western, a Thomson company. Trusted news for educators for several decades, several miles ahead.

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