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Big data transforms public education in Colorado

Richard Jones Archive

The American educational system can gain a lot by using more data to interpret how students are progressing and what teachers can do to improve. If the goal is truly to leave no child behind, then chief information officers should personalize the educational experience by analyzing data about each and every student.

Many CIOs in education have been hesitant to use more analytics in their operations, but a few innovators are showing a willingness to change the status quo. According to Information Week, one such maverick is Daniel Domagala, who's in charge of information technology for the schools of Colorado. That state is now four years into its Relevant Information to Strengthen Education (RISE) program, which gathers and analyzes data about 860,000 students, 2,000 schools and 178 districts. The program was recently featured at an MIT symposium on data quality.

Domagala told the news source that while there's still work to be done, analyzing data has helped the school system find insights about how to improve.

"Information doesn't tell the whole story, but we've been able to get a glimpse on what's working or not working," Domagala said. "We probably have a ways to go to where we can definitively say here are things that are proven to work and here are things the data is not supporting."

Thanks to new data-driven initiatives, schools can now measure their progress not in absolutes, but by looking at growth rates. How has a district improved since last year, or five years ago, or 10? Domagala and his staff no longer need to make subjective estimates to answer these questions - they have cold, hard facts to help them find the truth.

If more schools follow Colorado's lead, we may have an educational system in the future that better caters to the needs of each individual student.