Delving deeper into student data
Initially founded to help nine school boards meet the requirements of Ontario’s Managing Information for Student Achievement (MISA) initiative, Compass for Success realized long ago that student data held the key to success.
Diane Findlay notes: “The idea behind Compass for Success was that analytics can make a critical contribution to improving the way schools and students interact—a contribution that can ultimately improve student achievement.”
Compass for Success built a solution based on IBM® Cognos® Business Intelligence and IBM SPSS® Modeler software, which offers schools advanced data warehousing and analytics capabilities to support decision-making.
“We’ve worked with schools across the province to collect and analyze student data for years now,” says Diane Findlay. “This means that we have a huge store of high-quality data available, making the solution very powerful—we simply have much better data than any individual school board could capture on its own. We’re also constantly seeking to innovate—we know that there is always so much more that we could do to help teachers and students.”
Keen to expand its data exploration and predictive analytics capabilities, Compass for Success is preparing to add IBM® Watson Analytics™ to its solution suite.
Diane Findlay remarks: “Watson Analytics is a wonderful tool for exploratory data science. It automatically searches data sets for correlations, revealing interesting patterns that might have gone unnoticed in the past. It’s very quick and extremely easy to model data and detect correlations, which means that we can accelerate the development of new predictive models to identify which students are at risk of falling behind.
“What’s more, teachers can use the solution to share data on which teaching techniques seem to be successful with particular kids—enabling schools to deliver the best possible support to each and every student.”
Supporting struggling students
Today, Compass for Success hosts a centralized data warehouse in Toronto and delivers analytics services to school boards across the province via the cloud.
Diane Findlay comments: “We worked very closely with IBM to build the data warehouse, ETL tools, data models and reports, which enable us to provide a comprehensive, powerful analytics solution to schools in just six to eight weeks. Previously, it would have taken several years of hard work and, critically, a lot of funding for a school board to dip its toe into student data analytics. Only around 30 percent of school boards can afford to employ their own data scientist, for example. But equipped with IBM technology, we can deliver affordable, accessible analytics services to any school board and help support all Ontario students.”
By providing teachers with deep, data-driven insight into student performance and behavior, Compass for Success hopes to help schools increase graduation rates and improve student outcomes.
“Traditionally, teachers had to rely on gut feeling to spot students at risk of falling behind their classmates,” says Diane Findlay. “Now, they can identify at-risk students based on solid evidence and take preventative action accordingly. With Watson Analytics, elementary schools can begin to predict which students in grade three—those who really struggle with reading, for example—aren’t expected to graduate from high school. This insight means that teachers can intervene at an earlier age and potentially turn students’ lives around.”
She concludes: “With IBM Analytics, we’re enabling schools to identify, engage and support struggling students better than ever before, helping to ensure that the kids go on to earn their high school diploma and make the most of their education.”