Customer Spotlight: Wisconsin DPI’s Culture of Data Inquiry

Posted by Sarah SingerO

August 14, 2018

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction set out to create a culture of data inquiry in its school districts with the help of a statewide information platform.


All departments of education are faced with a number of local, state, and national reporting requirements that necessitate careful data recording — but not all of these state departments have provided that data to districts and schools in a way that facilitates classroom and school improvement. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction strives to put actionable data into the hands of educators and administrators, which is why in 2011, it set out with a goal of creating a statewide data system that was secure, user-friendly and, above all, accessible to educators and administrators.


“I’ve been driven with the mission of being able to try to make it a much easier process, and a much more rich and engaging process, when actually trying to leverage data for purposes of making some decisions in schools and classrooms,” explains Assistant State Superintendent for the Division of Libraries and Technologies Kurt Kiefer. This mission led Wisconsin DPI into a partnership with Hoonuit and, in 2012, the launch of WISEdash, the Wisconsin Information System for Education.


Since its initial launch, WISEdash has served as more than just a jumping-off point for data inquiry and school improvement; it’s grown into a system that facilitates educator engagement, allows districts to monitor growth and activity, and ensures that schools and districts meet reporting requirements.


A Culture of Data Inquiry


Knowing that it would take time and resources to train educators and administrators to use the system to make data-driven decisions, the WISEdash team looked to partner with it’s regional centers, Cooperative Educational Service Agencies (CESA), to create WISExplore. One of the WISExplore goals, according to Judy Sargent the School Improvement Services Director at CESA 7, has been  to move educators beyond “admiring the data” in WISEdash to actually engaging with that data. “The ultimate goal is for our educators and administrators to be actively analyzing, interpreting, and connecting students’ school performance data to shape effective strategies for school improvement,” says Mary Ann Hudziak, CESA 6.


WISEdash’s data visualization capabilities make data and information understandable, digestible and, most importantly, actionable. However, even after the creation of WISExplore, the state’s official WISEcoaches noticed that educators and administrators needed a process in order to actively engage in data inquiry. “So we went and really tried to develop that process,” Hudziak says. This focus on active data inquiry led to the creation of WISEdash’s integrated data inquiry tool — the Data Inquiry Journal to guide and document the process.


In order to do so, Wisconsin DPI collaborated with Hoonuit to create a documentation tool in the secure portal and narrative boxes in the public portal. The narrative boxes, which appear off to the side of the data in the platform, explain to users how to interpret and act upon the data that they’re viewing. The documentation tool, known as the “data inquiry journal,” provides a place for educators, schools, and districts to summarize, process, and ultimately tell the story of their data. It also allows them to return to their documented data inquiry process again and again in order to recreate it with future data sets.


One District’s Collaborative Efforts


Wisconsin’s Edgar School District is small, serving just over 600 students and containing only one elementary school, one middle school and one high school. But it has big ideas about how to utilize data. For the past two summers, Edgar has hosted a district-wide school improvement retreat, asking staff members from each school to create data leadership teams that will collect, organize, analyze, and investigate their school’s data before coming together at the retreat.


During the retreats, these leadership teams follow an agenda that guides them through the data inquiry process, identifying their schools’ strengths and areas of improvement along the way. The process culminates with the leadership teams drafting plans of action to inform development in the coming school year. The leadership teams don’t end their data inquiry when the retreat ends, however; they hold monthly meetings throughout the year to ensure that their schools are staying on track with their action plans.


District superintendent Dr. Cari Guden says that this collaborative data inquiry process has led to continuous improvement for Edgar School District — but it’s not the only Wisconsin school district seeing positive results with the help of WISEdash. Hudziak recalls one administrator who told her that WISEdash helps his administrative team “really focus,” as they’re able to see all of their data in one convenient dashboard.


Like Wisconsin’s school districts, WISEdash is continually improving, too; Wisconsin DPI has expanded its capabilities into early warning indicators including a dropout warning system, college and career ready early warning system, and absenteeism. The future looks bright for Wisconsin public schools — and Hoonuit will be there to provide them support along the way.


Listen to this on-demand webinar to learn more in detail about WISEdash and WISExplore.

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