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BI Tool: What Can You Automate?

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March 29th, 2019

This month, we offer another example of how the BI Tool can transform the data culture in your school district from a top-down, “use what we have” approach to a collaborative, “what do we need” approach. Our previous post focused on the work of Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, the largest charter school network in Los Angeles, and the “multiple rounds of feedback” that led to their custom “Data Summary” reports being “by far our most used reports.” Shortly after we published the post, Brian Schum, Instructional Coordinator at Lammersville Unified School District, contacted me and offered to continue this theme of collaboration, feedback, and iteration by recounting the collaborative process that led to their newest BI Tool Report, the “Student Tracking Report.”  Naturally, I said, “Yes!”

Process matters. Every school administrator knows it. Every strong leader knows it. The way you get to a decision matters as much as the decision itself, and a good process almost always leads to a better outcome. If we want our staff to use data to inform their decisions, they need to be included in the process of building the reports and data visualizations that will allow them to do that effectively and efficiently. Illuminate’s BI Tool provides the tools you need to do just that. Because you have control over just about every detail of your reports, you are able to accept and implement feedback from your staff. That’s exactly what Brian is doing at Lammersville Unified.

But Brian’s post brings up another important element that everyone should consider when they think about how to use the BI Tool in your district: Automation. When I think about the BI Tool, I don’t just think about reports and data visualization, I also think about automation. In just about any school district, if you ask around, you can find examples of people doing tedious, time-consuming, manual work with data that could be automated.  You might not even need to ask around! Ask yourself, “What can you automate?”

If you can build a report that saves people time, is there any better outcome? If you can give counselors or teachers a few hours of their time back so they can focus on building relationships with students, lesson planning, etc., that’s a huge win. There are many examples of school districts using the BI Tool to automate work and save people time. Do you have EL specialists manually identifying students who are eligible for reclassification? Do you have counselors manually pouring over data to make course recommendations for students? Do you have program specialists manually identifying students for your GATE programs? Do you have MTSS specialists spending hours trying to identify which tier of support would best serve which students? BI Tool reports have been created to automate this work as much as possible, saving people countless hours. The advanced logic statements that can be written using the BI Tool give you a way to identify students using sophisticated, multi-measure criteria that is completed custom to your schools. These are the types of reports that Illuminate cannot offer as pre-built, “out-of-the-box” reports because the criteria by which you are identifying students for support/intervention is completely unique to your schools, your systems, your assessment practices, and your students.

In the post below, Brian describes watching a site administrator creating a report “by hand on an excel sheet,” which had “clearly taken her a long time.” How many folks are doing that in your schools? Brian writes, “I told her I could automate what she was doing so that she could focus on the more important work.” That is music to my ears! Read all about Lammersville’s “Student Tracking Report” below.

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Franck Reyherme
Director of Business Intelligence Services
Illuminate Education


What Can You Automate?

By: Brian Schum, Lammersville Unified School District

I loved the story that Alliance College-Ready Public Schools shared in the February blog as an example of going through multiple rounds of feedback to make reports that are relevant and user-friendly. Franck hit the nail on the head when he wrote that “the very reason their custom BI Tool report is used more than any other is the collaborative, iterative process that they’ve implemented.” Our newest report was born through such as collaborative process and I was inspired to share our story as well.

We are several years into our concerted effort using Illuminate to grow our data culture at Lammersville Unified. The Student Tracking Report for grades 3-8 in both ELA and Math is an example of our focus on looking at multiple measures to identify students who are in need of strategic intervention so it can be provided at the right time to be most effective.

The idea of the report came from our assistant superintendent who shared a picture of a report that she used to do by hand as a first grade teacher. Then while talking with one of our site administrators, I saw her doing a similar report by hand on an excel sheet. It was meticulously organized, color coded, and had clearly taken her a long time.  I told her I could automate what she was doing so that she could focus on the more important work of helping teachers provide student supports.

The initial report went through several iterations with feedback from the assistant superintendent. She then took it to a few other administrators who gave their own suggestions which led to adding flags for our subgroups. It was then presented to all of our administrators who strategized on how to best talk about it with teachers. Ultimately, what started off as an idea that worked for a few people was improved through the iterative process and rolled out district wide to benefit all.

From a technical standpoint the report is fairly simple. The math version of the report is especially straightforward since all of our district math benchmarks are in Illuminate. However, the ELA version is more complex because the data originates outside of Illuminate and is a great example of the teamwork that has to happen on the back end as we work with an ever increasing number of platforms. The Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) scores are entered by individual teachers and our early primary coordinator has to train the teachers how to input the data. The benchmark assessment data has to be extracted from a standalone curriculum platform by IT before being uploaded into a summary assessment.

The shift to digital curriculum has presented a great opportunity for educators to make data informed decisions. However, the lack of standardization and interoperability between platforms often means that users have to hop around to look at snippets of data. Effective organizations need the tools with flexibility, but more importantly the people with the collaborative and technical skills to organize that data and create user friendly ways to visualize it in one cohesive picture. The combination of the BI Tool, Illuminate, and collaboration allows us to take an idea and create custom solutions for our unique needs.   


Illuminate Education is a provider of educational technology and services offering innovative data, assessment and student information solutions. Serving K-12 schools, our cloud-based software and services currently assist more than 1,600 school districts in promoting student achievement and success.

Ready to discover your one-stop shop for your district’s educational needs? Let’s talk.

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