East Hartford and Manchester Collaborate to Build Automated Reports

By Blake Garfinkle, Data Systems Manager

Have you ever thought, “There must be a better or faster way to do that!” Too often, you’re then left asking yourself what the alternative might be. In Manchester and East Hartford Public Schools, the Data and DevOps teams are exploring new avenues to provide data insights more quickly to better support educators in improving student outcomes. District data and IT staff are collaborating in new and exciting ways to provide educators with the information they need, allowing them to say, “Yes, there is a better way, and I know how to get there!”

A shared goal RISE Data Systems Working Group is to save time and energy for the people preparing the data. During the most recent DSWG meeting, the East Hartford and Manchester teams found common challenges around quickly synthesizing data from third party sources. The East Hartford team invited Manchester and RISE teams to their office to explore free tools — in addition to the RISE dashboards — to generate timely insights for educators by presenting information in a more user-friendly and actionable way.

During the meeting, the RISE Data Systems Team facilitated a workshop introducing the world of R and R Markdown. R is a language developed for statistical computing and graphical representations. R Markdown helps R turn data into high quality documents, reports, presentations, and dashboards. R Markdown’s greatest strength is how it naturally weaves together narrative text and data, telling a story about what the data mean. 

R code and the resulting data graphics

During the workshop, RISE shared a slide presentation built completely from R Markdown to demonstrate its flexibility. The workshop allowed participants to walk through real code to analyze information about student behavior and discipline, and to then make a report with live data. All of the code to generate the presentation and a sample report was shared with the participating educators. RISE staff covered topics ranging from gathering data from different sources, organizing data to meet specific reporting needs, and building reports.  In the future, R Markdown can help district data leaders automate reports frequently requested by schools and educators, helping them to make their work more efficient and accurate.

Following the workshop, East Hartford and Manchester engaged in an energizing brainstorming session. The teams were quick to find high-value opportunities to apply what they had just learned. For example, there were ideas to facilitate Fountas & Pinnell interim assessment reports, integrate other third-party assessment information, and alert the district of data errors before the state reporting deadlines. The RISE Data Systems Team is excited to provide support to these endeavors. We continue to be inspired by educators working together — across schools and districts — to find new solutions and pursue new ideas.