An educator-first mentality has informed data-driven decision making for Chicago’s Elgin Area School District U-46.
Access to holistic, high quality data can empower everyone in a school district to make more informed decisions, and to perform their roles more efficiently and effectively. That’s why Elgin Area School District U-46, a 40,000-student district located outside of Chicago, partnered with Hoonuit five years ago. Like many school districts, U-46 needed a data overhaul — but unlike most school districts, it began its dashboard rollout with its teachers.
“We wanted teachers to have access first, because they’re the ones who interact directly with the students,” explains Matt Raimondi, Assessment and Accountability Coordinator for U-46. That meant offering teachers quick and easy access to assessment and attendance information for each of their students, even before the district rolled out dashboards to principals and administrators.
While the entire district is now equipped with dashboard access, the primary focus remains on teachers — and in turn, their students. We spoke with Raimondi about the successes that U-46 has achieved to date, the obstacles they’ve faced along the way, and what the future looks like.
When U-46 first partnered with Hoonuit five years ago, their primary goal was to provide a functioning, user-friendly data visualization solution. Because the district’s top priority was to give teachers access to student data, the rollout began on the classroom level. Thanks to intuitive features, teachers quickly adapted to the system and were able to begin the data inquiry process without time-intensive training.
When we spoke to Raimondi at the beginning of the current school year, 900 out of the district’s 2,000 teachers had already logged into the system. “We haven’t even had our first District Collaborative Day yet,” Raimondi notes. “People are drawn to it. Teachers get into the system and start asking questions and finding answers to their questions themselves.”
In addition to District Collaborative Days — designated days during which educators gather to participate in PD activities aligned to the District Improvement Plan — U-46 encourages year-round data inquiry among teachers by assigning one teacher in each school the role of “data coach.” The data coach undergoes extensive training before helping other teachers make the most of their dashboards. This ensures there’s always a local expert on hand to address any questions that may arise as teachers learn and use the dashboards.
Nearly a year after teachers began using the system, the district rolled out more expansive dashboards to principals and other school-level administrators. A few months later, district administrators were offered an even higher-level view of the district’s data. Finally, in a recent effort to increase transparency, the district created a specialized dashboard for school board members with safeguards in place to protect individual students’ information.
Looking forward, U-46 plans to begin using predictive analytics to track future student performance and identify which students and schools may need additional attention or resources. The district hopes to continue equipping educators with accessible, actionable data to close district performance gaps — and perhaps most importantly — empower educators and students to succeed.