School administrators co-author eBook on data analytics


Baldwin School District’s Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Anthony Mignella and Data Specialist/Coordinator of Computer Services Leslie Duffy were invited to contribute to the eBook, “Data Visualization, Dashboards, and Evidence Use in Schools: Data Collaborative Workshop Perspectives of Educators, Researchers, and Data Scientists,” published in August 2021, after participating in the "Education Data Analytics Collaborative Workshop" with Nassau BOCES and Dr. Alex Bowers, professor of education leadership in Columbia University's Teachers College.

Mignella and Duffy told the Herald that the opportunity to co-author this book on education and technology was a total surprise, as they found out towards the end of the workshop. Nonetheless, they were both eager to contribute, since as Mignella said, “How often do you have the opportunity to collaborate with brilliant minds?”

This workshop served as the final phase of the collaborative National Science Foundation funded research project "Building Community and Capacity for Data-Intensive Evidence-Based Decision Making in Schools and Districts," a research practice partnership with Nassau BOCES and long island school districts.

The authors of the 28-chapter eBook were among the 80 participants of the workshop, ranging from educators to data scientists. Mignella and Duffy wrote chapter 23 titled, "Linking Data to Empower Meaningful Action," which explains how the district has used data to make decisions about curricula and policy that has led to increase in graduation rates and decrease in absenteeism.

In terms of spotlighting the topic of graduation rates, Mignella said that this was one of the district’s points of pride, “Baldwin has an amazing graduation rate in the past few years…For our students, graduation is the key to success--the world is open to you, no matter what your interest is.”

In chapter 23, Duffy and Mignella, an Assistant provide a detailed discussion of their work in their district in visualizing school and student data through their dashboards to make it relevant for educator practice. The chapter offers a window into the process of how districts can organize and summarize the many streams of data for specific users, here with a special emphasis on counselors.

As one example, Duffy and Mignella highlight the district's "Performance Map" and early warning Data Visualization, Dashboards, and Evidence Use in Schools 28 Bowers, 2021 system in which counselors are able to visualize student course taking and pinpoint where students may be at-risk so that they can offer supports to help students graduate on time.

In another example, they highlight the types of data that they build into dashboards and visual displays for school data use, which has helped deepen the data discussions throughout their schools between administrators and teachers. Throughout the chapter, Duffy and Mignella emphasize the importance of data being up-to-date, easy to access, and provide insights through the design of the visualization.

“It is a cycle: you look at your data, you ask the important questions, share with key stakeholders, develop strategic plans, and perform data cycle review,” Mignella said. Duffy added, “Part of the challenge is that you have all these data sets and you have to connect them--we are getting good at that.”

MIgnella and Duffy told the Herald that while their work, which they have personally delved in deeply, even learning the statistical software R, affects various stakeholders in the organizational hierarchy, but it always follows the School Board’s and the district’s S.M.A.R.T. goals, as “goals trickle down,” Mignella stated.

The district has been able to leverage this data to create both targeted and universal programs, as well as to establish early warning systems, including for summer school enrollment. Mignella and Duffy agreed that future endeavors with data analytics will center on “college career persistence and readiness, by tracking students and their performance in college and success after high school.”

The eBook, published in August 2021, can be downloaded directly from Columbia's "Academic Commons" database, which encompasses research and scholarship produced by the Ivy League university's staff and affiliates.