KIPP Proves Knowledge Really IS Power!
By Nate Richards, President/CEO, Entrance Consulting, [email protected]
KIPP Houston maintains detailed records on each of the approximately 13,500 students (“KIPPsters”) that they serve. This web of data includes information about their parents, classes, grades, test scores, and even demographic facts such as gender, age, and ethnicity. On top of that, KIPP tracks non-student entities such as schools, teachers, and districts.
KIPP’s IT team long ago realized that information without insight is akin to feast without nutrition. They understand that collecting data is necessary but insufficient to unleash its real value. In 2016, with a carefully curated data store in place, they were poised to put their information to work in support of their mission “To develop in underserved students the academic skills, intellectual habits, and qualities of character necessary to succeed…”
KIPP has been working with Entrance for years to store and organize this massive haul of data and put it to use in the form of numerous reports used by teachers and administrators. In 2016, KIPP contracted Entrance to implement several self-service business-intelligence dashboards using Tableau. These dashboards would allow administrators at KIPP schools to see how different cohorts are performing on yearly assessments.
Unlike with static reports, these dashboards could be sliced and diced dynamically by users without experience using a visualization tool. Filters included all the dimensions you would expect, such as subject, school, grade, gender, and teacher. Users would also be able to “drill-in” to a data point to get more information. These dashboards, collectively referred to as “Formative Assessment Visualizations”, would also serve as examples so that KIPP’s own Business Intelligence team could build other dashboards in response to user requests.
The Entrance team started by delivering a small proof-of-concept to KIPP demonstrating the capabilities of Tableau on sample data and showing a pre-built self-service business intelligence portal in SharePoint. After deciding to move forward, KIPP provided Entrance with rough sketches of the dashboards they were looking for.
As is critical in this type of project, dialogue about KIPP’s needs was consistent. The fruits of that conversation were the replacement of one dashboard that was deemed too complicated for its intended users and minor improvements to several others. Without this back-and-forth, the final product would have more closely resembled what KIPP originally asked for but would have less ably delivered what they ultimately needed.
Entrance began by determining which dimensions and measurements would be needed to build the dashboards. Since the Entrance team was familiar with KIPPs data warehouse, having designed and implemented several of the processes that populated it, they were able to quickly create SQL views that provided the columns needed for the visualizations.
As with all Entrance deliverables, and especially with data visualizations, which invariably spur ideas for changes and improvements whenever users get their hands on them, feedback is critical and delivery is just one step in an iterative process of development. Updates are organized in a product backlog so that KIPP project sponsors and stakeholders can decide what should be included in future phases.
Projects like this turn heaps of data into something understandable, even conversational, answering questions that were previously unanswerable, guiding people towards better decisions. Being able to find critical, needle-sharp insights in a haystack of data allows KIPP and organizations like it to carry out their noble missions, to serve the people that rely on them.