Back-to-School Data Wins: Tip #1 Clean Slate with Clean Data

Back-to-school is a great time to start the year off on the right foot when it comes to data. Why? You’re welcoming new students who will learn new things in new classrooms with new teachers. What’s more, your staff is also thinking about this year as turning over a new leaf. They must learn to effectively support many new students as soon as possible.

You have a fresh start, both with your data and with the people who use it. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing a series of back-to-school tips for data leaders who want to make the most of the season.

Back-to-school season can be hectic, but putting in the extra effort with your data will make for a great year to come. The more you lay the right groundwork now, the more your district will be able to access, understand, analyze, and act on it!

Let’s get started with Tip #1: Clean Slate with Clean Data:

Before you share data with anyone, you need to be confident that it’s accurate. That’s especially true now because your colleagues’ first experience with the data can have a lasting impact. If they can’t trust it at the beginning, it may be hard to regain that confidence later in the year.

Of course, every school has some data issues! That’s natural. The trick is to set up systems––both high-tech and people-powered––to minimize errors in your data. Plus, most of these practices will save your data team time as well!

  • Set-up automated systems. Whenever possible, choose a single source of truth so data entry has to be done only once. That might mean using a roster-syncing service like Clever or an SSO provider like Okta, Active Directory, OneLogin, or Google.
  • Choose live integrations over static ones. Regular data refreshes (whether via API, ODBC, FTP, or some other form) prevent data sets frozen in time from creating version control issues.
  • Choose products that match records based on multiple data points.  For example, if your data warehouse matches SIS and assessment data on either a student ID or a state ID, then you don’t have to worry as much about missing student IDs in your assessment platform. Although you may want to go back and correct that, this feature means more accurate data in the meantime. 
  • Cultivate data neatniks. Align on the reporting level needed before creating data entry norms. Doing so will help you straddle the tension between educator autonomy and organization-wide reporting that often results in either poor data quality or a lack of investment in data entry procedures. 
  • Consider how data could help day-to-day.  Do the people managing data entry utilize those data too? With a clear understanding of the consequences of poor data quality, you’re likely to see higher engagement in proper data entry.
  • Hire for attention to detail, experience with databases, and a strong sense of ownership.  Develop high-quality trainings and documentation, especially if you have high turnover in data entry positions. Be sure to make troubleshooting tips and helpline supports clear alongside data entry instructions.