The Transformational Power of a Data-Informed Culture

In 2007, the city of New Orleans was working to recover from the shock of Hurricane Katrina two years earlier. The city was rebuilding, but many questions remained that needed answers. One of the most important was ‘How would the city rebuild its shattered school system’?

Ben Marcovitz and other social entrepreneurs peered into the future of New Orleans and saw a light. Marcovitz saw a way to improve the city’s educational offerings and maybe, just maybe, create a fresh way to educate kids. Using a fellowship granted through New Schools for New Orleans, Marcovitz founded a new high school in New Orleans East. Opening for enrollment in the Fall of 2008, Sci Academy soon emerged as one of the top schools in the region.

A New Type of School in New Orleans.

Sci Academy began with a 9th-grade class of 80 students. By the end of the first academic year, following a restructuring of the school’s reading program, Sci Academy ranked first in English and second in Math in the Recovery School District. Not bad for Year One!

Now with a roadmap to success, subsequent cohorts followed in the footsteps of their predecessors. The positive test results continued to roll in. Sci Academy earned top district rankings in both Social Studies and Science in the first-year students tested in those subjects as well.

An Emerging Problem.

Despite their early success, the administrators and teachers at Sci Academy recognized an emerging problem. They had lots of data but were starving for actionable information. Each of their scholars generated hundreds of data points per year. From behavior to attendance, from academics to parent communications, the data continued to stack up. Despite their best efforts, they couldn’t find a single place to house all their data, much less a system that could help them make sense of it all. With expansion on the horizon, they needed to get a handle on all their data, and fast.

A Fateful Phone Call.

Ben Marcovitz reached out to Charlie Coglianese, a friend from Yale who was working at a hedge fund in New York. Ben and his colleague, Nicole Brenner, who was in charge of Sci Academy’s IT systems, told Charlie about their data management issues. What they needed was a central database that could not only house all their data but help them understand what was happening in their school in real time. A system that would combine: behavior, academics, attendance, and communications into a single system. But most importantly that system would need to be smart. It would need to empower them make decisions and identify what was working and what wasn’t working fast.

With a background in computer science and experience in crunching big sets of data for hedge funds, Charlie knew he was the right guy for this job. The Birth of Schoolrunner. The result was Schoolrunner. Schoolrunner tracks academics, attendance, behavior, parent communication in an easy to use interface. Teachers can access Schoolrunner on their computers or through a mobile app, enabling them to document student activity no matter where they are in the school.

The Birth of Schoolrunner.

The result was Schoolrunner. Schoolrunner is an all-in-one platform that helps teachers track academics, attendance, behavior, parent communication and more in an easy to use interface. Teachers can access Schoolrunner on their computers or through a mobile app, enabling them to document student activity no matter where they are in the school.

Today is a Data Day.

According to Marcovitz, the results were staggering. Left to their own devices, Sci Academy had already achieved amazing results, but now data was giving them the power to understand why.

Moving the decision-making process out of the world of instinct and into a data-informed one affected Sci Academy’s results in some interesting ways.

A Fresh Look at Old Data.

Schoolrunner gave the schools the power to re-examine some of the assumptions that they had made regarding performance. Teachers who used Schoolrunner for assessments were able to immediately compare a student’s performance with other data points such as attendance, behavior, and parental communication.

Sci Academy had ideas – Schoolrunner offered them verifiable facts that helped them test those assumptions.

Parental Involvement and Student Accountability. 

At Sci Academy, parents can access their child’s student record via Schoolrunner, creating a previously unheard-of degree of transparency between families and the school. This leads to increased levels of student accountability both in school and at home.

Teacher Empowerment.

At the heart of Sci Academy’s data-informed culture is transparency. In most schools, teachers understand the progress a student makes in their class, but lack easy access to a student’s entire academic record. This left them wondering how their time with a student fit into that student’s overall academic journey.

Schoolrunner offered Sci Academy teachers a fresh perspective on each student’s educational progress. With the ability to identify issues at the first sign of trouble, teachers can implement interventions quickly both in, and outside of, the classroom.

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Administrator Empowerment.

Similarly, Marcovitz and the other administrators at Sci Academy were able to get a glimpse into what was happening at their school in real time. If groups of scholars were starting to show negative trends, administrators were able to give teachers additional support and resources to help those students. Similar to an Enterprise Resource Planning tool used in large businesses, Schoolrunner gave administrators at Sci Academy the ability to understand what was happening in their school all at once. And that’s the big thing: Sci Academy achieved successful outcomes from the word ‘go’. With Schoolrunner, the administrators and teachers at Sci Academy found a way to make their data work for them rather than against them. Now every member of their team has more time to analyze and act on their data than they ever did before.

An Ongoing Happy Ending.

For Sci Academy, there is no finish line, no single happy ending. Rather, each time a scholar graduates with a college acceptance letter in hand they create an on-going happy ending.

For Sci Academy and other innovative schools that have embraced a data-informed culture, the innovation never stops. The programs and initiatives that they develop using verifiable data as their guide have, and will continue to revolutionize the way that smart schools educate our kids.

We invite you to see what Schoolrunner can do for your school. Test our responsiveness firsthand by emailing us at hello@schoolrunner.org and we’ll schedule a no-pressure demo of our school data solutions.

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