As a high school teacher, I often struggled with keeping track of all my students, their assignments, and all the tasks I had to do to help them. There are many times when I look back and wish I could have helped my students more. There are also many things I didn’t know about my students, and it seemed I had little time to get to know them outside of my busy classes. Now that I have become a web developer at the RISE Network, I hold these memories as I take part in a project to improve upon the current data dashboards which serve the RISE network.
For several years, educators in the RISE network have had access to a wide range of data dashboards to help them in their work. These dashboards form an important part of RISE’s strategy for network improvement: they help educators identify students who need help; they also allow administrators to notice trends across their school. For example, the Grades and Attendance dashboard shows lists of students who fit into certain categories based on their recent grades and average attendance. The Student Profile dashboard shows a detailed profile of individual students.
A core idea behind the existence of these dashboards is data-driven educator collaboration – part of our RISE by 5 framework – in which teachers work in teams to explore the data, identify interventions, and make their students’ school experience better. This is a situation in which both data and collaboration give a fuller picture of a student’s experience: teachers can go beyond their direct experiences with a student to learn about their strengths and challenges in a holistic way, while the data can help us challenge assumptions we make about students.
Although these data dashboards have served the network well, they had some limitations. For example, educators can only access data according to pre-set views, and they aren’t able to add their own notes or make updates to help keep track of additional information about students. In the spirit of continuous improvement that informs our culture as an organization, RISE started to take a closer look at what new opportunities we could unlock by going beyond the data dashboards. So, in 2021, RISE started developing a series of web apps to make data-driven collaboration more effective. (A web app is a piece of software that lives inside a web page; Google Docs and Netflix are two examples of web apps.)
In the fall of 2021, the Post-secondary Tracker app was released. It allows counselors to track the progress of juniors and seniors in identifying and pursuing post-secondary plans, together with the myriad steps which these plans entail. An important improvement of this app over the old dashboards was that users could now interact with the data, adding notes to student records and updating each student’s progress when needed.
Building on the success of the Post-secondary Tracker app, we have been working on a new app which expands its functions to cover other areas of the school experience. This new web app aims to build upon the data dashboards in three important ways:
- The new app will allow educators to save and customize the views of data they wish to see, such as custom lists of students filtered by certain conditions. For example, an educator could create a saved view to see all of the students who are not on-track to get enough credits to progress to the next grade.
- It is aimed at being simpler to navigate, with a more intuitive user experience. Previously, student information was spread across several different dashboards, spreadsheets, and tools; this project aims to consolidate these and bring them together into a unified and consistent experience.
- It will allow users to add their own notes and tasks, helping them keep track of interventions. Having personal notes and tasks integrated with the student data will ensure that educators can review where they left off with a student and keep track of the interventions they are planning.
I’m excited to be part of this project, but I know that a data tool is never fully complete. There are always things that can be added, improved, or done away with. I look forward to the thoughts and feedback of educators after the launch of this app next school year, so we can make it even better in the months to come. It has been a pleasure to work with a team so passionate about the success of students in the RISE network. Although it will play a role behind the scenes, I hope this app can form one part of that success.