Growing Together says new data system will help track student achievement
A local nonprofit working with several Tulsa Public Schools sites has contracted with a Tulsa technology company to create a database that will help it better track the success of student interventions.
Growing Together — a collaborative nonprofit working to bring organizations, residents and educators together to tackle educational and social challenges — focuses its work on the Kendall-Whittier and Eugene Field neighborhoods and the six schools serving that area. Growing Together partners with several organizations including Reading Partners, City Year and Communities in Schools to provide interventions for students who need help.
Kirk Wester, executive director of Growing Together, said he hopes the new database will help provide the organization with “very clear knowledge” about how each of the partners is performing.
Wester said that out of Growing Together’s eight-person staff, two are focused on data analysis. Although their analysis has been highly useful, he said, it can take months to simply analyze one outcome — such as if third-grade reading is improving — from a few of the partner organizations.
“If we’re going to accelerate progress, then we’re going to have to have a data system that can keep up with what we’re trying to do so our analysts can be analyzing rather than compiling,” Wester said.
He said this database is putting Growing Together on the path to “essentially becoming the research and development department for Tulsa Public Schools.”
Wester said that although TPS performs its own data analysis fairly well, Growing Together is focused on a small subset of students and can complete analyses much more rapidly.
“And we have the capacity to do something about the data once it’s analyzed,” he said.
Wester said part of the analysis is identifying which programs are working, how they’re working and why they’re working. He said it is incorrect to assume that because a program is effective at one site it will work at others.
“The district does not have the capacity to do all this,” Wester said.
Wester said the first phase of the system will cost $120,000 and is being paid for by the George Kaiser Family Foundation. Costs after the first phase will be incremental, he said.
Local technology company Asemio is developing the data system, which managing partner Aaron Bean said is about 20 percent complete. A beta version is expected to be ready in the spring, and a full version will be ready by next school year, Bean said.
Asemio is a business intelligence and technology consulting firm focused on community change initiatives.
Wester and Bean say the plan is for the database to include three components: school information data, such as attendance, scores and demographics; data on interventions from partners like City Year and Reading Partners; and data on community efforts in the area.
But Stacey Vinson, the TPS instructional leadership director over the Growing Together schools, said that right now, the data system will begin only by tracking after-school activities including the interventions offered after school hours and efforts by community partners such as the University of Tulsa and the YMCA.
Vinson said the database will help Growing Together track students’ involvement and the “dosage” of involvement in these after-school activities. Growing Together can then share that data with TPS to help the district look at students holistically, she said, and TPS can compare that data to attendance, behavior and academic data.
“We’re really optimistic that this is going to be a model for other areas and other departments,” Vinson said.