Ensuring Student Success with 360-Degree Data Views
By: Arpi Karapetyan, Data and Communications Manager, Boston Day and Evening Academy
Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA) serves Boston Public School students who have previously dropped out of high school or are at high risk of dropping out. Teachers and support staff are always on the hunt for the best strategies to ensure student success. It used to be a guessing game: Did this interaction happen three months ago? How do we know if it’s working?
That has changed with our “Connects” platform built on Salesforce. Staff can easily look up any student’s progress, behavior and risk factors, and understand what’s worked well to best support that student. Students also have access to their own information, so everyone at BDEA starts from an informed and prepared place.
As a result, there have been 5 key shifts in our school culture and experience to advance student success in and out of the classroom:
Boston Day and Evening Academy
1. Aligned staff and student expectations
The biggest impact I’ve seen of our Salesforce-based system on teachers is that conversations with students are easier, whether they’re returning for their 10th year or a brand new hire. Before, staff had to do tedious searches for student progress information, which was inefficient. The fastest route was simply to ask students directly: “How much did you complete? How often were you present?” Doing so didn’t set students up to create a habit of productive conversations and get back on track. Now, one tool is the single source of truth about expectations and progress, and both parties can see it.
Says Julie Gray Parks, BDEA Humanities teacher:
“BDEA Connects has made conversations around attendance easier and more transparent. Being able to show students trends within one term, across multiple terms, and trends that connect attendance to course completion has given them ‘a-ha moments’. Students see the connection between attendance and course completion when they are provided with student-friendly versions of their own data.”
2. Proactive support and acknowledgement
Today we can proactively intervene to make sure students don’t fall through the cracks. We look at attendance on a weekly basis, color-coded and in percentage form, to quickly see when there’s a notable change. We use attendance best practices to get and keep students on track. A positive shift in attendance results in acknowledgement and encouragement. A negative shift immediately sets in motion conversations to reverse the blip so it doesn’t escalate to a long-term issue.
3. Better use of time
A decade ago, school staff did everything on paper—processes that were rife with duplicate efforts. On Salesforce, we not only removed duplication; more importantly, we could finally grade more efficiently. It is simply easier to enter grades so the staff is on it. It’s my job to check end-of-term grades for incomplete entries, and the list is now much shorter. Anyone who’s spent any time in schools knows there’s always more to do, but now we allocate our time on the right things: Working with students, preparing lessons, and moving strategic initiatives forward.
4. Conversations that are grounded in data
There is a sense of reality on our campus now that is concrete and accessible through data, and that people can believe in. Staff can have data-informed conversations about students because we can find and trust the data we have.
As we speak, we’re redesigning the Humanities curriculum, so we reference attendance data by unit, see which modules had higher or lower completion rates, and adjust based on how students interacted with the curriculum. When seven months have passed since that unit, having data to remind us what happened is priceless.
5. Enhanced relationships
One of our goals was to make sure that an online tool did not replace in-person communication. It had to supplement it. Now that students have access to their school-related information online, they know that every adult on staff can show up to a conversation informed. Conversations start from a more rigorous place and we support students much more effectively.
BDEA teacher Constance Borab feels the difference: “Prior to Connects, there was a total lack of systems. Not having systems made it difficult to truly have a competency-based school. It is wonderful to be able to check at a glance where students are. It has increased transparency and improved communication.”
What’s next for BDEA?
We’ve already come a long way. But we keep asking ourselves, “Why has no one done this?”
Our ongoing priority is to shift student dynamics and increase autonomy. The school system can be dehumanizing and authoritarian for many of our students, so to get them to take true ownership of their success, we have to get them to believe that they actually have it. We already have the right tool in place and are now focused on the adaptive changes around it.
We are also embracing the power of analytics. How can we use predictive technologies and algorithms to identify which students are at highest risk? We work with students who are high-risk already, and we see certain patterns and behaviors frequently over time. What works with each subgroup of students? That will provide a starting point to test new theories and strategies. We will still tailor conversations for each student, but can instead start from a much more informed and proactive place.
Want to learn more? Join me and Salesforce.org to hear how BDEA uses Salesforce to transform the student experience through holistic tracking—from competency-based learning to intervention management and post-secondary planning. You’ll also get a student success demo from our K-12 solution engineer, and get your technical questions answered.
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