Spotlight on Aspire: How data champions used data to build a robust teacher effectiveness dashboard


As we expand into our role as an independent, mission-driven organization serving schools nationwide, we are keen to continue the collaboration with our users, and to celebrate your hard work. From time to time, we’ll shine the spotlight on data champions who are thinking innovatively and helping to drive improvement in teacher effectiveness and student achievement via useful and timely data analytics.

This week, we kick off the series with a spotlight on Jon and Cathleen, two data champions at Aspire who helped build a teacher effectiveness dashboard, which the school system could use to identify best practices and opportunities for professional development.

Great idea, but accomplishing the task was easier said than done. Building the dashboard was full of challenges, of just the sort that Schoolzilla likes to help solve in partnership with data champions like Jon and Cathleen. Here’s how these two champions are cracking the code and developing solutions.

Challenge #1– how could they efficiently and transparently exclude variable data from individual teacher ratings?

Solution: Jon and Cathleen created SQL scripts to automatically exclude specific data from certain teachers before the data was loaded into Tableau. In other words, the code did the hard work and eliminated the need for more time intensive manual scrubbing. Because the end-user can’t read the SQL script, Jon and Cathleen worked with their team to create write-ups that describe how the calculations are composed and which students’ data was factored into an individual teacher’s score.

Challenge #2 – how could they build a robust dashboard that pulls from multiple data sources, but also loads rapidly so that busy principals can quickly access the most relevant data?

Solution: Jon and Cathleen started by looking at…you got it… the data! They looked at examining the site performance metrics to understand what exactly is causing the slow load time and explore relevant solutions. For instance, they may “stage the data” meaning that some data will load in small batches allowing reports to be pulled from the stage rather than from the live database. They may “cleanse the reports” to remove performance-inhibiting filters and query strings.

Challenge #3 – how could they improve the capacity to print batches of reports easily?

Solution: To solve this meaty problem, these data champions are evaluating a variety of solutions, including designing custom URLs for each report and writing distinct scripts that enabled batch printing of a series of reports. Their ultimate goal – create more efficiency and save principals time! We’ll check back to see what they devised.

While these data champions were actively solving data challenges at Aspire, they were also attending Tableau user groups to learn more about the options and best practices

From all of us at Schoolzilla, gold stars to Jon and Cathleen.