Since 2001, IDEA Public Schools has grown from a single school with 150 students to a network that currently serves 36,000 students and plans to grow to 100,000 students by 2022. IDEA has schools in the Rio Grande Valley, Austin, and San Antonio, and will open schools in Southern Louisiana and El Paso for the 2018-19 school year.
IDEA Public Schools is built on the premise that ambitious results can be achieved through continuous improvement. Over the past 18 years, the network has proven time and time again that the most successful students, educators, and administrators are the ones who seek feedback, analyze data, identify root causes, and implement solutions based on the data they have.
Using data has always been important to the charter school network, which has to juggle increasing numbers of accountability measures from the states and districts in which it operates.
As the network has grown, so has its reliance on data. IDEA Public Schools currently employs a software development team to manage data dashboards for teachers, principals, and operational leaders, as well as a research and analysis team to ensure that collected data leads to positive action.
While IDEA’s data management processes have become more automated and efficient, the evolution hit a snag in 2013 when the network moved from a platform called DataDirector to Schoolnet. The goal at the time was to implement a system that could get live data into data dashboards for ease of use.
A combination of persistent technical issues, poor customer service, and a high price tag, however, forced the charter school network to abandon Schoolnet and look elsewhere for a solution in 2016. “It took days and sometimes weeks to get our data, and it was a real burden on our end users,” recalls Heather Pardo, VP Student Performance & Advocacy at IDEA.
Based on that experience, IDEA looked at new providers and made a pilot program a non-negotiable requirement of its RFP. Out of the few vendors who agreed to the pilot, Illuminate Education was selected.
IDEA liked the fact that the data management platform, Illuminate Data & Assessment (DnA), enabled scanning through a computer camera.
The staff also loved the ease of scanning, the immediate data visibility, the layout and variety of reports available, including custom reports, and the printable feedback for students and parents at the click of a button.
“Illuminate DnA gives us incredibly easy data access, and the timing of data makes a huge impact on adjusting instruction to help our kids,” Pardo says. “If you don’t have the data right away, you can waste a lot of time that could be used to adapt instruction. The last thing we want to do is wait around for results.”
Pardo and her team are looking forward to using Illuminate DnA to build on the success they’ve already had as a data-driven organization. A top priority for the network is to apply its expertise with academic data to behavioral and cultural data so it can be collected and distributed in a standardized way.
This work is part of an equity-based leadership agenda that focuses on the success of every child in the network. “Our mission is to help all students reach their full potential no matter what zip code they live in,” Pardo says. “That’s why we work so hard to get data in the hands of everyone who can help.”
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