To meet the needs of this broad audience, the dashboard is divided into four components:
- Recruitment and Selection, where viewers can compare the admission requirements of the state’s 15 teacher-education schools, including criteria such as GPA, and even evaluate the performance of a school’s education graduates against its non-education graduates.
- Educator Preparation compares the performance of the education schools in training the next generation of North Carolina teachers. Viewers can see, for example, which schools are experiencing increases or drops in their enrollment numbers, how many new teachers each school produces, and how long it takes those teachers to earn their degrees.
- Performance and Employment tracks the effectiveness of the 15 schools’ graduates in the workplace. A Program Effectiveness Report, for example, compares the test scores of a teacher’s students with those from previous years. The dashboard also displays teacher-retention rates and job-placement rates. All the data is provided only in aggregate, so no teacher names are ever involved.
- University-School Partnerships tracks the various partnerships between the state’s education colleges and its school districts.
To help users discern trends, SAS Visual Analytics allows viewers to slice and dice the data in myriad ways, whether by individual education college, by year, by grade level, or even by subject area. “It has the ability to really personalize and customize the view of information,” added Chapman. “Policy makers, educators, legislators, higher education administrators, K-12 administrators, and parents can pull up and do comparisons by institution. They can do comparisons across schools for school districts in North Carolina.”
Obviously, the quality of the information available through the dashboard is only as good as the data feeding it. “I do believe that North Carolina is unique in that we have a rich set of data to pull from,” said Chapman, who notes that the data extends back a decade in many cases. “We also have a good history of collaboration with education sectors within our state.”
The richness of the data available allowed UNC to establish its dashboard relatively quickly, although a fair amount of back-end work was needed to clean up the data and establish how the various feeds would be handled. “A lot really depends on the state and the data-sharing agreements that it has in place,” said Emily Baranello, senior director in SAS’s Education Practice. “Of course, a lot also depends on the quality of that data.”
SAS is working with various other states, including Texas and Louisiana, to develop their own dashboards utilizing the company’s Visual Analytics tool. “Education has actually been in the forefront of developing different dashboards over the last couple of years,” said Baranello, adding that even states without North Carolina’s robust data infrastructure can benefit from mining the data they have.
“What’s great about a platform like this is that you can continue to add to it—states can bring in data sources as they are able to get them,” said Baranello, noting that Connecticut has taken exactly this approach.
Ultimately, though, the value of the UNC Educator Quality Dashboard will be judged on whether it helps the state’s educators identify and resolve the issues brought to light. Based on early returns, Chapman is extremely confident. “Since our soft launch in May, the dashboard has really made our deans of education and our institutions accountable to what the outcomes are,” she said. “The information’s available, and they have to become far more adept at talking about the implications for their specific college, school, or department education. That’s really important.”
Andrew Barbour is a contributing editor with eCampus News.