Straight A’s for schools
District superintendents make the grade with SAS® OnDemand
When Larry E. Price, PhD, Superintendent of the Wilson County School District in Wilson, North Carolina, wants to compare monthly absence records for the 24 schools in his district or determine trends in student discipline or financial performance, he can log directly into his SAS dashboard and interact with the district’s attendance, student or financial data.
How does the 12,600-student school district maintain this level of data driven decision making with a small technology budget and a limited IT staff? With SAS OnDemand for K-12.
Instant access to information online
Even though schools and school districts typically do not use the term business intelligence, the solution is – essentially – a business intelligence and performance management dashboard, hosted by SAS and delivered via the software as a service model.
How does it work? SAS pulls together information from the school district – such as attendance, enrollment, financial and discipline data – and analyzes it in a secure environment, which is also hosted by SAS. District leaders securely access customized reports online with a unique password. They use the dashboard to monitor performance benchmarks about their school or district and make decisions to benefit students.
“School districts need to turn school district data, often drawn from disparate systems, into useful information and provide users with increasing levels of granularity that lets them drill from the district level down to a revealing view of the individual student,” says Bill Rust IV, a Research Director at Gartner Inc. “Otherwise, they typically are restricted to reporting data, not using information to improve student achievement.”
The benefits of a hosted environment
Unlike large organizations with sizable budgets and staffs, school districts find it difficult to gather, clean, report and analyze data given their limited resources and fixed technology budgets. In fact, many districts are challenged to complete simple reporting tasks. Since information often resides in many different databases across their own districts, schools and districts lack the infrastructure to transform and combine disparate data and remove inaccuracies to create consistent, trustworthy information.
With SAS OnDemand for K-12, SAS handles all the back-end data consolidation, cleaning, analyzing and reporting. As a result, the solution eliminates the need for large hardware purchases, lengthy software installations or on-site SAS experts. All that is needed is a computer, high-speed Internet access and a database administrator to pinpoint the data sources.
The condensed implementation time and the minimal staff resources required at the local level are additional benefits. With an on-demand solution, district leaders can begin operating a business intelligence performance system developed for their local districts in less than a month’s time.
Wilson County sees results
Using the school districts’ input, SAS included key metrics in four main categories in the offering:
The district’s solution continues to evolve as SAS gathers more feedback through the development partnership with Wilson County. Likewise, each district that uses the on-demand solution can customize the main portal page to display information of its choice. The entry page might include important Web links or various dials for tracking measures that are the most important to that district.
Wilson County’s superintendent praises the solution for easing frustrations and giving him the information he needs. “Knowing that data exists that would help you make a decision, but is not available because the data is housed in four or five places, is very frustrating,” says Price. “SAS OnDemand is a solution that gives me quick insights into key data about my school district and lets me drill down into the data when I need to know more. This is a tool that every superintendent needs.”
SAS CEO on technology and education
This story appears in the Third Quarter 2008 issue of