Nashville Data Sharing to Support Student Achievement

On July 25, Social Solutions, in collaboration with American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), Nashville Promise Neighborhood (NPN), and the Tennessee Department of Children Services (DCS), hosted a Webinar titled “Supporting Student Achievement: ‘Rapid Time’ collaboration between Service Providers and Metro Nashville Public Schools.” The Webinar primarily focused on the development and implementation of a recent data sharing partnership between MNPS and NPN, and included key takeaways for efforts in other communities.

Laura Hansen, Director for Information Management and Decision Support at MNPS, provided context to the data sharing partnership by discussing the challenges faced by educators and policymakers within the education pipeline. Hansen described effective data use as insulation to the pipeline, providing a structure which helps prevent students from “leaking out.” This insulation, when combined with wraparound services, allows communities to engage in collective impact, an intentional effort made by multiple sectors within a community to work together toward a shared goal. Quality data, shared across sectors, can act as the “magnet and glue” which brings a community together, and can be used to improve upon current practices, yielding positive student outcomes.

Hansen chronicled the evolution of the data partnership in Nashville. Described as an iterative process, the MNPS-NPN partnership stemmed from a prior data-sharing effort between MNPS and the Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA). While that effort utilized a home-grown data warehouse staffed by MNPS, there was a desire to create a more robust system capable of protecting secure information, while at the same time, ensuring issues of scalability and sustainability could be addressed. The current effort utilizes a new data sharing platform that provides valuable information to all partners, including student demographics, contact information, key indicators of student success, quarterly grades, attendance data, and behavior data, and increases confidence in the sustainability of the partnership.

The Webinar highlighted the importance of thoughtful development and transparent implementation of a shared data system. It was only through a careful collaboration between community stakeholders, Social Solutions, MNPS, and NPN that a multi-step process toward implementation could be achieved. Prior to the technical development of the data system, the partners undertook a year-long process to develop a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This was used as an opportunity to build trust and develop a common language among all parties. The technical solution development lasted approximately six months, and involved a cyclical process between stakeholders and technical developers that provided multiple opportunities for formative feedback.  Hansen described the challenges the partnership faced during the development process, including issues related to funding, privacy concerns, fear of accountability, and developing a firm understanding of data use. With regard to data literacy, Hansen stressed the importance of providing all staff with comprehensive training in data use, as well as clear guidelines to ensure student privacy is taken into account.

Hansen concluded her presentation with the lessons learned from Nashville, and tips for facilitating the successful development of a data sharing system within a community. First, all partners must have a shared vision of what defines success. Data sharing must be of value to all partners in order to create an aligned, “win-win” situation. Second, there must be a desire within the community to change the status quo, and the potential for a collaborative culture to develop. Third, a substantive investment of time and money must support the collaborative culture, with a formal agreement or MOU as part of the investment. Finally, the resulting data system must be integrated across sectors to allow all systems to communicate with one another, and the end users must be trained in the analysis and use of quality data.

To access a full video recording of the webinar please click the link here.

Austin Pate is a research/policy assistant at the American Youth Policy Forum.

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