Improved data quality sets up K-12 students for success
SAS helps improve the educational experience for more than 54,000 students.
The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools district relies on SAS® to make sound educational decisions
Student performance shouldn’t be guesswork for school administrators. Counselors and staff need access to reports on the performance of their students – built on reliable, trustworthy data – in a few clicks of a mouse.
For school officials and parents in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WS/FCS) district, that’s exactly what they get. Located in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina, the district uses SAS to unify data from disparate sources and make it available to school principals, administrators, school counselors and parents. The goal: improve the educational experience for more than 54,000 students in 81 schools.
Because we have reliable data – and users can ask questions and get answers – we have one of the most intensely data-driven school districts in our state. Debbie Harman Director of Enterprise Data Systems Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
A unified data warehouse and reporting portal powers student performance
One of the biggest school districts in North Carolina, WS/FCS collects and manages data about student demographics, grades, attendance, free and reduced lunch and more in a variety of systems. They use SAS to access, integrate and validate the data from all those systems into a data warehouse. Today, the data warehouse contains 10 years of student information. The process is now automated.
“We might need to make adjustments when there are new requirements, but this keeps us from reinventing the wheel every time we need data,” says Debbie Harman, Director of Enterprise Data Systems for WS/FCS. “And as a large district with limited resources and a data warehouse staff of three, this is essential to be successful.”
That high-quality data warehouse then serves as the foundation for their Information Delivery Portal. Users now have relevant information at their fingertips to make data-driven decisions. Users can explore reports on attendance, discipline, performance and more.
Because the reports are iterative, they automatically update as students are added to or removed from the report due to changes in their performance. Administrators and school counselors use this information to create improvement plans for individual students based on the data in the report. They can also analyze the information to determine at-risk students and act accordingly.
“SAS helped us unify data across the district and made it easier to produce timely, relevant data for use in making educational decisions,” Harman says. “As a result, administrators get an email every Monday morning with a link to the SAS portal that shows which students from their school may need extra attention or a different approach.”
“From grade to grade, this process allows principals, counselors and others to view aggregate details on attendance, behavior and grade markers,” said Kenneth Simington, Deputy Superintendent for WS/FCS. “So instead of waiting until a student has failed or is in chronic situations, we can work with them and improve things sooner rather than later.”
WS/FCS is focused on achieving a 90 percent graduation rate, and the SAS portal is a critical part of that. “We started at around 70 percent [graduate rate], but through our programs – including the use of SAS to identify more students who need help – that number is now 85.6 percent,” Simington says. “We’re seeing continual improvement, so we know this is the right strategy for our district.”
WS/FCS – Facts & Figures
Schools in the district
Savings via data-driven teacher allotment
Years of student info in data warehouse
Determining the ideal teacher allotment
Accurate data also helps the district make smarter choices about its operations. WS/FCS is a “district of choice,” meaning parents can go through a process to choose a school for their children. At the same time, district administrators must maximize the value of quality educational programs within the available budget. The data warehouse allows the district to put the correct number of teaching resources in the classroom.
“The online portal helps us become much more efficient,” Simington says. “Traditionally, when we did high school registration, we used a lot of paper. So we went to an online system to further assist with determining teaching allotments. All teaching allotments are now based on student online course registrations. So the ability to bring this entire process online and aggregate data quickly has helped us in the accuracy of our allotments.”
Each year, students use a student portal to choose their classes. When they complete their selections, the course information is fed into the data warehouse. Administrators use this information to make sure each student has the right number of classes and credits each year.
“The scheduling process for the upcoming school year typically starts in April,” Harman says. “So it's a dance, and it must be well choreographed for us to be successful. We make the most of our SAS tools to meet data-driven target dates to completely schedule 81 schools. Once the initial teaching allotments have been determined, administrators monitor student enrollment in each course on an ongoing basis to accurately redistribute allotments according to the data. This process provides the most efficient use of funding teaching positions, and as a result, saves the school district money by not over-allotting teaching positions.”
High-quality data, stronger outlook
High-quality data isn’t just nice to have – it’s essential. And when it comes to making data-driven educational decisions to help K-12 students perform better and succeed in the classroom, WS/FCS can attest to its value.
“Our administrators, principals and school counselors need detailed information on students to perform their jobs,” Harman says. “Because we have reliable data – and users can ask questions and get answers – we have one of the most intensely data-driven school districts in our state. And that’s something we’re very proud of.”